Fire Service Technology: Looking Ahead

Charles L. Werner explores ways in which new technology is improving the way emergency service agencies perform.


Technology continues to catapult every aspect of our lives forward at a pace never before experienced. Some technology leaders have named this period the "Big Bang of Technology" as technology explodes and unfolds in every aspect of our lives. In Garry Briese's overview, Identifying Future...


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Technology continues to catapult every aspect of our lives forward at a pace never before experienced. Some technology leaders have named this period the "Big Bang of Technology" as technology explodes and unfolds in every aspect of our lives.

In Garry Briese's overview, Identifying Future Challenges Faced by the Fire Service, the executive director of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) notes, "Given the way computers and other technology has evolved in the past, it is difficult to predict through current trends where technology will take us in the future. Technology is developing in a non-linear fashion, which means the fire service must continually reassess the way it delivers its products and services. Frequent assessment and course corrections must be built in the way we do business. To cope with the rate of change, the way we plan has to change and 'long-range planning' will look no more than three years into the future."

This article will explore the idea of technology awareness programs and highlight specific applications where technology has shown or shows promise to improve the way in which emergency service agencies perform.

Emerging Technologies

In December 1999, the first Virginia Fire and EMS Technology Symposium let fire service representatives see emerging technologies and share their thoughts on how departments were making use of their technology.

The most important revelation that came out of the symposium was that there is a need to conduct technology awareness symposiums regionally throughout the United States. This can be accomplished through fire service/vendor partnerships. This type of presentation becomes a win-win situation for both the fire service representatives and vendors.

The Technology Symposium focused the vendors into a 10-minute window of "wow" factor, which let emergency service representatives receive the "awareness quotient." In return, vendors have a captured audience to which they can give their "best shot." Exhibit areas were established where attendees could visit any of the vendors that interested them. Vendor PowerPoint presentations were provided to all attendees on CD-ROM so that attendees could review any of the presentations or use them to sell the concept or desired equipment to decision makers in their communities. This Technology Symposium was modeled after the "Change Symposiums" held in Phoenix. Unfortunately, most people in the United States cannot travel to Arizona and/or Virginia.

Incident command simulation software shows much promise in the way of training our present and future incident commanders. During the Technology Symposium, Fairfax City, VA, Battalion Chief Joe Bailey and Albemarle County, VA, Captain John Oprandy demonstrated several options that would allow for customized and easily produced simulations. The concept combines incident simulation with a "real" practical "twist." This takes a building that has been acquired for a practical burn session and first simulates incident command situations using computer software:

Day 1 - The computerized simulation lets incident commanders test their abilities on a projected digital image of the acquired structure in a variety of situations with the ability to try different strategies and without risk or danger.

Day 2 - Incident command is now practiced in conjunction with an actual "burn" of the acquired structure. The activities and communications are then a demonstration of the previous day's simulation training. This way of training incident commanders, both present and future, is important to the successful deployment of forces as well as the safety of firefighters and citizens.

The Fresno, CA, Police Department is using a simulation called "Patrol Sim," an open-seated station that simulates driving conditions and pursuit situations. The station has pre-set and programmable scenarios that give officers experiential learning before having to face it in real life.

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