Introduction: BoxMarker for FireBrigades

Show your FireBrigade mates which trucks have to leave their boxes, when an alarm occurs.

Step 1: Idea, Problem and Solution

Besides my job and other activities, I' m a mate of our local FireBrigade.

Our FireBrigade is not a small one. The FireDepartment has more than 8 boxes for the trucks and owns about 10-12 trucks or more.
A sketch of our main garage is shown below.

When an alarm occurs, we get a fax from the boys and girls behind the telephone number 112, or 911 in the United States. Besides other infos, that fax contains a keyword, telling us what kind of alarm has to be handled.
The keyword tells us which trucks have to leave their boxes and join our mission. ;-)

There' re more than 40 keywords.
Who can hold all keywords and the regarding boxes in mind?

We decided to install blinking lights in the boxes, which indicate whether the contained truck is affected or not. When our FireBrigade gets alarmed, the first one who enters the garage has to switch on the lights using a laptop.

This Instructable doesn' t offer all of the details so far, I just wanted to give an overview of how matching ideas or problems can be solved.

Step 2: Electronics and Electrics

Our main garage has 8 boxes.
So we' re able to use an already assembled card with 8 relays on it. The card was bought from a big seller of electronics.
The job of the bought card is to switch the lights on and off. The picture below shows the relay card and the power supply for the lights.

Power Supply -> Electrics

Step 3: Control

The relay card is controlled by a laptop.
On this laptop SUSE 8.2 is installed. 8.2 was chosen, because the laptop is an old machine and newer distributions need too many RAM and other resources for running stable.

The picture below shows the mask used to control the relay card. This program is a script written in Ruby using the Tcl/Tk toolkit for the GUI widgets.
The Ruby script was released on:

When an alarm fax comes in, the keyword has a matching button widget. The one who has to switch on the lights just presses the matching button. The script then searches an .xml-file to find out, which lights have to be switched on according to the keyword.

When the script found the necessary infos, it calls an external program which controls the relay card. This external program is called by a system call and giving it the infos found in the .xml-file.

The called program to control the relay card can be found on:

On the right side of the mask you can see which lights are switched on.

Step 4: Put Together

In the picture below, you can see the parts put together.

this includes:
electronic and electric parts

If all parts worked right,
the result is a blinking light.