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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The Palm VII also has the ability to send and receive e-mail where the Palm Net service is present. There is a monthly fee for the Palm Net Service. Other fire service applications are being developed in the area of EMS reporting, fire information collection, occupancy inspections, etc.

"Outside The Box"

Directing our thoughts beyond the fire service, technology is continually making us "think outside the box." Imagine that an incident commander could track and record every movement/action for each individual firefighter/fire apparatus at the incident scene. That's right, every movement in the "fire battlespace" recorded in sequence as it occurred and the results that followed. The potential data collected and analyzed could reveal some of the most significant findings yet. Such an analysis could identify the best time to apply positive pressure ventilation, dramatically demonstrate the effectiveness of Class A foam, etc.

This concept is what the ASCIET 2000, or All Service Combat Identification Evaluation Team Exercise, is all about. The ASCIET 2000 exercise utilizes sophisticated computer equipment to digitally record and analyze every action/engagement on the battlefield and provides immediate feedback to combat participants.

This U.S. Department of Defense exercise will bring together 70 current combat identification systems and 15 government-sponsored emerging technologies to be evaluated and was taking place in Savannah, GA, and surrounding areas from Feb. 28 through March 10. The military has always been a leader in development of emerging technologies that will enhance our national security.

Thermal imaging cameras, Geographic Information Systems and the Global Positioning System (GPS) are all examples of what the fire service has implemented from past military initiatives.

Today, there is still a struggle between the pros and cons of the Internet and other computer technology. Generally speaking, there is a varied thought process between the generations. This is true of the general population and within the fire service.

While many older people see many of these concepts as destructive and somewhat intimidating, a younger crowd has come to expect such change and versatility and see these as constructive enhancements to their lives. One thing is certain: we are all on the same journey into the future.

The future is always only a day away and yet there is a mind-boggling speed with which we are seeing technology explode. The emergency services community, like the corporate world, must take steps to stay abreast of these changes. This will permit the fire service to explore new concepts, some of which are outlined in this article.

Many initiatives are underway to help the fire service keep up with the pace of technology.

In 1999, the State Fire Chiefs Association of Virginia established a Technology Team. This team is charged with the development of its website (www.sfcav.org) as well as helping keep its members "technology aware." Today, it progressively boasts being the leading source of emergency service news and information in Virginia. Included are prompt updates of legislative issues, product recalls and other related news.

Technology Task Force

At the January 2000 board meeting, IAFC President Luther Fincher announced the establishment of an ICHIEFS Communications Technology Task Force under the leadership of IAFC Second Vice President John M. Buckman. This task force, among other things, will examine the communications technology systems that are available to the ICHIEFS organization to communicate with the leadership of the fire service on a national, regional, and local level.

"Information is the key to action today and at the ICHIEFS we recognize our ability to communicate current information is important to our members," Buckman said. "I believe that we need to move rapidly on this project with energetic and qualified people who will work to put the ICHIEFS organization at the front of the communications technology systems."

Technology, the Internet and computers will become even more a part of our daily lives. Emerging technologies such as "infocharms" - small wearable computers similar to a firefighter's badge, are being used to exchange information between attendees and vendors at trade shows without ever doing anything. Perhaps this infocharm technology will be the personal alert safety system (PASS) device of the future.