1. #1
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    Default What is your FDs Biggest Challenge When it Comes to Technology?

    While walking the show floor at FDIC last week I had the chance to visit with dozens of exhibitors who were displaying the most up-to-date technology for the fire service. From firefighter tracking to dispatch assistance to hazmat monitors, there was something for every level of the fire service, whether career or volunteer.

    I was curious what has the biggest impact on your fire department for taking the leap to the next level with technology. Is it the lack of understanding the pros and cons of the various gadgets? Does your department have a technology committee, or are the purchasing decisions made by those who use flip phones and don't trust Google or Bing?

    How about something as simple as budget cuts that kept MDTs from your units in the field?

    What barriers have you found when trying to bring updated technology to the forefront of your fire department's mission to save lives and property?

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    Explaining to people that technology is sometimes just gadgets and not always (and fairly often not) the best idea. Sometimes....firefighting needs to stay simple.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    If they can develop technology that actually helps, does not fail, and can be purchased and maintained by a department with a total budget less than your salary, we might try it. So far there have been very, very few technological advancements that right out of the gate were reliable, truely helpful, and cost effective. Our philosophy is to give the technology a few years, let the engineers work the bugs out, see if it actually does something useful, and give the shiny new price tag time to adjust.

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    Cost, training, and maintenance are our biggest barriers. Most commercial offerings for software-type services are out of reach of the budget of a small rural department. I get the impression that most software companies don't understand the volunteer fire service as a market. Either that or they do understand it and have decided to ignore it, I'm not sure (there are some exceptions like iamresonding.com) We tend to try to do things on the cheap instead. Instead of a high-end toughbook laptop in every apparatus running custom CAD software and Firehouse software, we have a hand-me-down laptop in one truck running the free version of Google Earth. With no internet connection when we leave the station (we can't cost-justify a 3G connection), it's only marginally useful. Add to that the fact that many of our members aren't computer-literate enough to use it, and it's tough to get adoption.

    Our best success with technology has been a program I wrote myself (because we couldn't afford commercial offerings) that sends our pages to cell phones for secondary notification. It's had good success because it doesn't require any effort from anyone other than me.

    We're using iamresponding.com with partial success, but the only reason we can afford that is that they have special pricing for departments with less than 100 calls per year. If we had 101 calls per year we wouldn't be able to afford that either (which is why I have a home-built solution for that developed also, but haven't deployed it). Getting people to use it consistently is difficult.

    I'd love to have an engine with CAFS, but the cost is a tough hurdle. Plus, I have a lot of people who can barely get a simple pump in gear and flow water. Training them to use CAFS would be very, very difficult. Same with gas monitors. We use them so infrequently that it's hard to justify the cost, especially with the periodic calibration and maintenance that's required, along with the problem of keeping people trained on something they rarely use.

    I'm a technology guy and I love it, but most people aren't. If it's not extremely simple, most people won't use it.

    Andy

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    There's always a need for us to improve. Technology has gone so far and fast. We must be able to go with the flow to provide quality service and reach our visions.

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