Top Technology Trends in Fire Rescue: What to Expect at Fire Rescue International 2019

Technology is finding its place in organizations across the board as employees discover new ways to effectively do their jobs. For first responders, specifically in fire, rescue operations and EMS, it’s no different. Mobile technology has become a staple in fire and rescue trucks and stations across the nation, and as technology continues to develop, departments are able to evolve the way they work.

From staffing to training to logistics, today’s leaders in fire and emergency service have a lot to keep track of. It’s our goal to help first responders implement technology in a way that will help them to overcome some of these challenges. This could be something as simple as using a mobile device to conduct online training or as critical as accounting for who is still inside a burning building on a scene. Panasonic has been a trusted supplier of rugged mobile technology to firefighters for decades, and many agencies rely on TOUGHBOOK for customizable solutions to meet their unique needs – from hardware and software, to connectivity and other services. Here are common things we hear from our customers:

The Value of Real-Time Data

One of the biggest concerns for first responders to a fire emergency is not knowing the details of a scene before they arrive to it. No two buildings or structures are going to be the same, and understanding the building construction and what hazardous materials may be inside before arriving on scene is critical. Being able to understand the construction, number of occupants and ultimately predict how a fire is going to behave has changed the way that a response is generated. Mobile software that specializes in capturing this kind of data and satellite imagery on Google Maps are a few of the many solutions available to first responders, enabling them to arrive on site armed with the data they need to best tackle the challenge ahead. The review of this data most often happens in the vehicle en-route to the emergency, so it’s important to have the right in-vehicle mobile computing device. Before the introduction of mobile technology, this kind of information might be stored on carbon copy blue prints in the back of a truck or not available. With the emergence of mobile devices that can efficiently access and share this data, first responders are arriving on scene smarter than ever before.

Challenges with Connectivity and Communication

Now, mobile technology is only valuable if you can access critical data.  Coverage and connectivity are significant concerns for many of today’s fire departments. Especially in more rural areas, first responders may not have the constant coverage they need to look up information on route to a scene. That’s why access to local data is so important and storage capability is a major criteria for mobile technology used in fire and EMS response. Particularly in instances where an emergency call is made, it’s imperative that the call is received in a timely manner and the nearest possible rig is sent for dispatch. When connectivity issues interfere with the dispatch process, it can be the difference between life and death. Technology with quality connectivity can enhance response times and ultimately help responders avoid the unimaginable.

Ease of Use for the Entire Workforce

Something that often goes forgotten is that most firefighters work on a volunteer basis. Fire chiefs continually need to think about staffing and how to recruit new talent. As fire leadership looks more towards recruiting millennials, technology begins to play a big role. Millennials in the workforce, no matter the industry, grew up with technology and are accustomed to using it as part of their day-to-day job. Providing modern technology makes these positions more attractive and pulls in the younger workforce. However, baby boomers are still an active part of this workforce as well, and technology is not second nature for them, so any tools that are brought on need to be easy to use. This leaves first responder IT departments with the challenge of finding technology that is on the cutting edge while still being intuitive, user-friendly and highly visible for the baby boomers audience. In response to this trend, we’re seeing that touch screen capability has become more important for mobile technology used in fire response. After all, the focus should be resolving an emergency as quickly and safely as possible, not how to turn a computer on and off.