Every year, thousands of firefighters are injured or killed while fighting fires, performing rescues, responding to emergency medical or hazardous material incidents, or participating in necessary training. In efforts to maximize safety, save lives, and minimize injuries of firefighters, innovative technologies are being utilized by fire departments across the United States.
According to U.S. Fire Administration statistics, an estimated 81,070 firefighters are injured on the job annually in the United States, and through mid-September of 2013, 79 firefighter fatalities were reported. Structural fires are the causes of 87% of fire-related firefighter injuries. In an effort to maximize safety, access to web-based fire pre plans, as well as innovative firefighter technologies have been on the rise.
Firefighter Nation highlighted four areas where technology is making its impact on firefighting. Those areas include:
- Tablet computers
- Simulation Training
- Importance of Preplanning
For decades, Fire Pre Plans were housed in binders or embedded within foldable maps. With the wide availability of mobile phones and tablets computers, cloud and web-based technologies have allowed fire departments to communicate real-time pre plan information and gather pertinent information at their fingertips. Tablets feature multiple communication methods, including email and instant messaging apps, as well as specialized information applications, such as WISER, that allow firefighters to determine the hazardous nature of the incident instantaneously. This year, Charlottesville Fire Department installed iPads in their engines, brush trucks, ladder truck, tanker, and command vehicle. Through the addition of mobile hardware, site-specific information, responder locations, and estimated response times can be transmitted to fire stations and other responders.
Technology has enabled firefighter tracking to advance beyond typical GPS. Honeywell recently released GLANSER (Geo-spatial Location, Accountability and Navigation System for Emergency Responders). According to Honeywell, GLANSER is “capable of tracking firefighters in a multi-story building within one to three meter’s accuracy, showing an incident commander what floor a firefighter is on, what area of the floor the firefighter is working in, and whether the firefighter needs help.” However, unlike typical tracking systems, GLANSER doesn’t rely on GPS. Tony Wyman, Honeywell First Responder Products Vice-president of Marketing stated, “In an environment like an open field, GPS connectivity is a viable solution to the problem of finding and tracking a lost firefighter. But in a structure where GPS may be unable to penetrate, it might be worthless. What firefighters and incident commanders need, is a robust, scalable and affordable system that can operate reliably in a GPS-denied environment. That is what GLANSER can do.” Honeywell plans to test the system with two major fire departments this summer and perform extensive field-testing in the second half of 2013.
Drones, once reserved for specialized military operations, have proven exceptionally effective in mapping forest fires and depicting the extent of flooding situations. Surveillance drones can provide real-time imagery affording responders a birds-eye view of an area. The recent California RIM fires and Colorado flooding highlighted the invaluable utilization of drones to evaluate and determine response limitations, countermeasures, and tactical solutions. Aerial images of the RIM fire allowed engineers to create predictive models of how the fire would potentially spread, allowing for effective countermeasure to be implemented.
According to Firefighting Nation, there are several effective training simulation software programs to assist firefighters in re-creating an emergency incident. The article mentions CommandSim, Digital Combustion, and Action Training Systems as potentially effective software training programs. To be most effective, simulation software should allow fire departments to download identified hazards and site-specific pre plan information into the simulation to reflect real-world applicable scenarios.
Despite the advancement in fire fighting technology, optimizing an effective response requires preparedness. Fire pre plans provide useful information about particular structures. Pre plans can be developed for schools, office buildings, hospitals, hotels, apartment buildings, shopping centers, laboratories, industrial facilities, and other sites. These plans may describe the building’s size, number of floors, construction details and materials, occupancy, and hazardous materials locations. Pre-incident photos, hydrant locations, and other water sources should be included in a pre plan in order to quickly determine how to approach a scene and identify the equipment necessary to combat the blaze. Web-based pre plan software can be easily shared with mutual-aid companies and additional responders, allowing for a unified and cohesive response.
For a free informative download on Fire Pre Planning, click the image below: