02 August 2017
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Extinguishing fears

Simplifying its locking system and increasing vehicle security was the challenge facing one major fire brigade. Here’s how it arrived at the right solution.

When one of the UK’s largest fire brigades was looking to decrease the complexity of its locking systems on small fire engines and at the same time aiming at increasing its vehicles’ security, that called for a sophisticated and appropriate response.

That came in the shape of the collaborated efforts of Pickup Systems, a specialist in the design and manufacture of bespoke vehicle builds, and Southco, a global leader in engineered access hardware solutions, resulting in an electromechanically-based latching solution that could well become something of a trendsetter for secure latching and locking on special vehicles.

Being tasked with the overall build and conversion of the fire brigades’ emergency & rescue vehicles, the challenge Pickup Systems had been given was to include an upgraded locking mechanism for the engines’ roller shutters that would be compact in size and could be integrated with the vehicles’ central locking system.

Utilising heavy-load mechanical locks on its roller shutter doors, which were visible from the outside, the customer felt that the existing system was unnecessarily complicated to administer, with different keys for different shutters in addition to the vehicle keys. The result was a system which compromised security, also leaving the vehicle vulnerable to attack as the locks could be seen from the outside.

Additionally, controlled locking from inside the cab was a key requirement from the customer to ensure maximum security and ease of use for the driver. The fire service needed a solution which was lighter, more compact than the previous system and could be relied upon to work in extreme conditions, due to the harsh environments which fire engines are exposed to.

Following a recommendation from one of its suppliers, Pickup Systems contacted Southco to assist with the design of such a bespoke locking system for the roller shutters. Driven by the customer’s key requirements to improve fire engine security and provide integration with the vehicle’s central locking system, Southco’s immediate product choice was its R4-EM Electronic Rotary Latch Series, which the company has successfully designed into applications where access control and protection against theft and vandalism are central product specification criteria.

Most specifically, Southco recommended its R4-EM 7 Series Electronic Rotary Latch, which has been designed particularly to provide reliable electronic access in demanding outdoor environments. With its corrosion-resistant stainless steel outer body construction and fully-sealed internal actuator, the outdoor R4-EM provides reliable electronic locking that is resistant to moisture and dust.

As the embedded electronic control of Southco’s R4-EM 7 series allows integration with a control system, Pickup Systems has been able to design a locking mechanism into the fire engine that integrates with the vehicle’s central locking system. Complex key management has thereby become an easy one-step operation, securing all doors and shutters through one simple touch of the vehicle’s keyfob or control panel.

As an additional security feature, the rotary latch, which fits neatly behind the frame, is not visible from the outside of the roller shutter. No obvious attack points are evident, which therefore makes the locking solution less prone to being tampered with.

John McGauley, managing director of Pickup Systems, comments: “The Southco solution has enabled us to fulfil all of our customer’s requirements, in terms of secure locking, optimised key management and making the latch far less obstrusive. What is more, we see similar opportunities across a range of emergency & rescue, as well as utility, vehicles where the threat of theft and vandalism is ever present.”

Callum Whitelaw from Southco adds: “We understand that security threats are a big concern for vehicles that carry valuable equipment. Therefore, the importance of reducing the risk of unauthorised access is central to our product offering. And Southco’s R4-EM Rotary Latch does exactly that: delivering the convenience of electronic access control with the security of a proven, robust, all-metal rotary latch design in a compact, integrated package.”



Brian Wall

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Southco Manufacturing Ltd

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