In 2019, the US reported 1.2 million fire incidents, which claimed more than 3,700 lives and resulted in a total loss of over $14.8 billion. Firefighters are the first responders in various challenging situations, including fire breakouts, natural disasters, traffic accidents, and medical emergencies. To meet the needs of the job, firefighters need to have a range of skills.
While firefighters put their lives at risk to rescue others, technology can go a long way to improving firefighter safety and effectiveness. Technology can also help save more lives by ensuring firefighters respond more promptly and efficiently during emergencies. Here’s a look at how technology has transformed fire departments.
Incident Response Software to the Rescue
A fire breakout can engulf most homes in less than 5 minutes. Empowering your fire department with the right software can facilitate quick decision-making at highly time-sensitive moments. With the right tools to plan and communicate, the right number of firefighters can be deployed promptly, with all the necessary equipment to gain control of the situation. An incident management software allows incident commanders to remotely manage their response forces, with real-time information available at their fingertips.
With cutting-edge technology, it is possible to set up alarms to inform all relevant personnel via a mobile app. Firefighters can send updates on the situation on the ground, like backdraft, structural collapse, and flashover, giving incident commanders the input needed to scale up or down the personnel deployed.
In 2021, there were 135 on-duty firefighter deaths. Among the causes were explosions, overexertion, and vehicle-related accidents. Tech adoption by fire departments is on the rise for a faster response time and to promote firefighter safety. A firefighter accountability system enables decision makers to have a real-time view of the entire fire department and to keep a real-time check on all response personnel during an incident. With improved visibility, fire departments can deploy the required number of personnel and not have to spread too thin across incident responses. Confusion and inadequate response can be significantly lowered. With such technology in place, incident commanders can get real-time updates.
Wearable Technology to Increase Efficiency
Although firefighters wear protective gear, hot combustion gases and thermal radiation can worsen the situation. Wearable technology can be used to estimate the core temperature at the site, lowering the risk of heat-related injuries. Moreover, being able to continuously assess the temperature can assist in decision-making. For instance, a sudden increase in temperature can alert firefighters and the fire department of a worsening situation. On the other hand, continuous lowering of the temperature can indicate that the current course of action has been successful and that no more responders are required at the affected site.
Firefighters are exposed to harmful gases from burning chemical substances, which can cause significant and permanent damage to their lungs. Wearables can be used to monitor air contamination levels during and after a fire so that protective and curative actions can be taken.
Studies show that working in high temperatures increases the risk of heart disease. As many as 45% of on-duty deaths among firefighters in the US are caused by coronary heart disease. Technological advancements have made it possible for firefighters to use wearable electrocardiograms (ECG), which aid in the detection of cardiac events during or after a fire incident or even while training.
With the right wearable technology, firefighters can be aware of their health while saving the lives of others.
Light to Show the Way
Head-mounted lights can penetrate and clear the smoke so that firefighters know the path to take and what they are saving. Combining this with a real-time wireless camera makes responders outside the site aware of the situation inside a burning building so that they take the necessary action.
Even the slightest delay in reaching the site of a fire can prove fatal. Fire trucks are typically massive, loaded with ladders and hoses, making it difficult for them to maneuver through the traffic. To reduce the response time during such emergencies, the fire departments can send small mobile trucks with the basic equipment (like oxygen tanks and face masks) ahead of the main fire truck.
In their hour of need, it’s firefighters who risk their lives to save others. Technological advancements can significantly enhance safety, lower response times, and improve decision-making in the fire department. Moreover, the adoption of the right technology can enable the fire department to curtail operating costs and improve resource utilization.