Amsterdam Fire Brigade


  • 200 mobile operatives can remotely access and update the fire department’s fire prevention and risk management database
  • Around 500,000 documents are currently managed with Alfresco
  • A more efficient and responsive fire service is now using the system to accurately undertake risk modelling, utilising all available information to anticipate precisely possible incident types
  • A comprehensive data warehouse combines government open data on every building, object and geometrical space integrated with data from the fire brigade’s own administrative systems

Amsterdam Fire Brigade

Responsible for delivering key public safety services, the Amsterdam fire brigade in the Netherlands serves a resident population of one million people. Providing cover 24 hours a day, 365 days a year from 19 fire stations across the metropolitan area, last year the service responded to over 11,000 incidents — more than 30 a day.

Risks within the city are extremely variable, ranging from industrial to the commercial and domestic. One of the greatest small cities in the world, Amsterdam is a UNESCO world heritage site and the cultural capital of the country. Welcoming 3.5 million foreign visitors a year, its 17th century canal district, world famous museums and historical buildings need to be vigilantly protected. Amsterdam is also one of the biggest oil transhipment harbours of Europe and home to Schiphol International Airport. Its busy urban metropolitan area also incorporates rail, metro and tram networks.

The department’s highly-trained fire fighters are trained to respond to a wide range of challenging scenarios, ranging from road and rail accidents to fuel and chemical spills, aviation and waterway accidents — and of course fires. 

The brigade works hard to prevent such incidents happening in the first place and devotes significant effort to working with local authorities, the police, industry and the community to reduce the risk of fire, ensuring premises are as safe as possible.

Business challenge

In a bid to make the move from incident management to incident prevention, the fire service in Amsterdam has embarked on an ambitious project to determine where the risk of incidents are highest and its resources could be deployed to the greatest effect.

Using government open source data on buildings, streets, roads, waterways and transport links in the region with fire incident reports, the service wanted to build real-time risk profiles of individual streets to improve its emergency response.

This would involve combining 600,000 objects such as buildings, railways and roads with possible incident types like fires, traffic accidents or carbon monoxide poisoning, integrating this with incident reports and data from the government’s Key Addresses and Buildings (BAG) register.

Analysing this data would enable the fire service to appropriately equip emergency teams for specific incidents, deploy its resources more effectively and strategically, and take preventative actions to minimise risk.

Integrating data collected by the fire brigade’s administrative system, which includes mobile report updates from operatives in the field, would be critical to the success of the new system.

“We needed a solution that could deliver records from field operatives using iPads to complete reports on location during site safety assessment visits, assuring data integrity even when wireless Internet connectivity was compromised,” explains Tjeerd de Bruin, IT Manager at Amsterdam Fire Brigade.

“Previously we were using a remote desktop application connected to a legacy Sybase backend system that only worked when the tablet device was online.”


The fire brigade selected Alfresco as the basis for a custom made solution generated by Alfresco Partner Incentro. 

The Alfresco powered solution interfaces seamlessly with iPad devices, a Pentaho-based data vault and QlikView — a business intelligence tool that analyses client data to generate insights that can be acted on.

Alfresco offered powerful records management capabilities, supports a variety of content formats — including documents, emails, images and records — and delivers the ability to synch access even when no connection is available. Using Alfresco, the organisation was able to build a unique mobile ECM solution that would let mobile operatives view, open and edit documents, initiate and complete workflow functions, and assign and monitor tasks.

“As a leading Open Source solution, Alfresco was the ideal component in a system that involves several heterogeneous data sources, including open data sources generated by the City of Amsterdam’s administration that includes building addresses and several in-house data sources,” continues Tjeerd de Bruin.

Following a query initiated in the Pentaho data vault, Alfresco imports a list of addresses with the highest risk of fire. These are distributed across different fire stations, based on location and fire crews will visit these addresses, complete interviews with owners and occupiers and complete a questionnaire. The results are automatically synced back to Alfresco whenever a 3G connection is available.

“In this way knowledge on previous experiences and solutions is secured, which can help us while fighting a new fire or other incident, “ says Tjeerd de Bruin.

Using the tool, fire fighters are now tackling the risk of fire in certain locations. Analysing the data they’ve found that 20 percent of all fires in one district were caused by unsafe cooking practices. This has triggered an educational programme via social media to inform the public of the risk and dangers and households in at risk areas are receiving fire safety advice.

As well as saving lives, ultimately the service hopes to improve its efficiency. As well as pinpointing and mapping 12 million possible incidents the fire brigade can now anticipate precisely, in the future fire crews will be able to access profiles and tactical information on screens as they respond to incidents.

“We’ve demonstrated you can take data from anywhere, and pull it together to create information that delivers better insights into what incidents happen and where,” concludes Tjeerd de Bruin.

“Alfresco plays a key role in managing the collection and collation of data that prepares us to undertake our role more effectively, implement prevention programs, and respond better in emergencies.”