4 Ways Investing in Technology Can Improve Recruitment for Fire, EMS and Rescue
Recruitment and retention are proving to be challenging issues facing the emergency services sector, with workforce shortages projected in years to come due to growing competition for key skills and changing worker values. However, unlike other industries, shortages in this sector may mean longer wait times for emergency services, which can mean life or death for people who need help. This is especially true for rural and underserved parts of the country.
A survey from the American Ambulance Association found that overall turnover rates among paramedics and EMTs range from 20% to 30% annually. As a result, ambulance services face 100% turnover every four years. The survey also indicated that the need for EMS professionals will increase significantly by 2030.
The recruiting and retention situation for emergency workers has become so dire that the American Ambulance Association and National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians sent a letter to Congress in late 2021 asking for more funds to combat the issue. This letter explained that staffing shortages will compromise the ability of agencies to respond to emergencies.
Other emergency services see similar issues. In county after county, emergency service providers report firefighter shortages. Additionally, a report from the DC-based Police Executive Research Forum found that the number of applicants for police officer positions has decreased significantly over the past several years, while more officers are eligible for retirement.
As emergency services organizations continue to grapple with ongoing talent shortage, it’s becoming more and more important for them to find ways to recruit and retain top talent. One way to do this is by using technology as a recruitment and retention tool. Here are four ways that emergency medical services, fire and rescue organizations can use technology to improve recruitment:
1. Provide modern, effective and efficient solutions
During an emergency, any glitch in processes or technologies can result in disaster. These glitches can take many forms: batteries that run out too quickly, balky devices that simply don’t process fast enough or poor connectivity that creates communications difficulties. When these issues occur often enough, any first responder will become discouraged about their ability to effectively do their job. After enough time, they may decide to quit. This is especially true with younger recruits, who are accustomed to faster, more reliable technology.
With access to reliable, feature-rich equipment, those glitches can all but disappear. One of the most important indicators of reliability is a device’s historical failure rate. On average, for example, 12.8% of consumer-grade tablets fail in the first year and 14% in the second year.
This number climbs to more than 20% by the fifth year. For rugged tablets, first-year failure rates are 4.4%, increasing to 5.6% in year two and stretching to 9.9% in year five. In general, mobile device displays are the greatest hardware point of vulnerability, followed by factors like exposure to liquid, extreme temperatures and dust. Every time a mobile solution fails, it leads to an estimated 73 minutes of lost productivity.
The solution is reliable, rugged technology that first responders can easily see in direct sunlight and that will perform reliably in high and low temperatures, wet and dusty conditions and with gloved hands.
2. Put convenience and efficiency first
Efficient, full-featured mobile devices enable emergency responders to conduct field operations without trips back to headquarters, meaning personnel can remain ready for action in the field and provide faster response times. Panasonic’s Toughbook G2, for example, is a fully rugged two-in-one device outfitted with 5G, 18.5-hour battery, infrared camera and optional keyboard. These capabilities allow first responders to perform a variety of tasks without leaving the scene, including sending and receiving critical information via priority networks.
3. Provide top-notch data access and connectivity
Emergency response requires reliable, constant communications and data-sharing between personnel, as well as the ability to access important data and respond quickly. This requirement makes it critical to outfit emergency personnel with the most advanced communications options, including fast access to high-speed networks including 4G LTE, 5G, dual SIM, Bluetooth, GPS and near-field communications, as well as FirstNet, the high-speed wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety.
4. Enhance visibility and predictability
During times of emergency, more information is better. With hard data and situational awareness at their fingertips, first responders can perform their missions more effectively. Today, there are many ways to increase their real-time visibility. For example, many departments have begun to pair mobile devices with drones to undertake search-and-rescue missions, suspect tracking, wildfire surveillance and suppression and much more. Taking advantage of these capabilities requires mobile devices with strong LTE and GPS functionality and enough processing power to handle the video, photos and thermal data they may receive.
Another key technology for first responders is artificial intelligence (AI). The ability to predict victims’ chances of survival, assess damages and aid in search-and-rescue are important capabilities that can save lives — all of which are increasingly done with the help of AI.
The Philadelphia Fire Department, for example, uses a behavioral health platform built with AI to identify at-risk users, while NIST developed an AI-powered tool to predict and warn against flashovers, which is a situation where flammable materials in a room ignite quickly and simultaneously. Paired with a reliable, rugged mobile device onsite, tools like these are key to creating more targeted, efficient response.
Providing emergency services personnel with the equipment they need
Recruiting the next generation of first responders — and keeping veterans on the job — means providing them with the most reliable, efficient resources. Built with customer feedback in mind, Panasonic Connect solutions are durable and reliable in extreme environments and prioritize connectivity and computing power to elevate situational awareness. With access to real-time information, workers stay prepared, accountable and productive in mission-critical situations, which allows them to improve outcomes for the agencies and the communities they serve. Learn more about how Panasonic TOUGHBOOK mobile devices can help your department meet the technology expectations of today’s recruits.