Firefighting is a dangerous job. Every year, more than 31,000 firefighters are injured in the United States alone, some of them severely. Moreover, fires lead to roughly 17,000 civilian injuries and fatalities, and property losses of approximately $10 billion.
Developing a strategy while en route to the fire
With today’s technology, responding fire personnel can get detailed information on the way to the fire, helping them plan their approach and how best to allocate their resources. With links to CCTV systems inside buildings and cameras deployed on firefighter’s helmets, incident commanders can see real-time feeds of the fire using mobile devices. They can overlay this data onto the structure’s floor plan to better understand where in the building the fire is concentrated and in which direction it may flow. They can also deploy video-enabled drones over the structure to obtain an aerial view and gain better operational oversight.
While responding to the scene, incident commanders can also access real-time traffic data to calculate the fastest approach and identify the location of fire hydrants and other resources. They can also calculate the volume of water or foam needed based on the size and type of the fire, helping them to determine if they need to request additional resources. By the time they arrive at the scene, emergency personnel will have all available information, providing them with a better overall picture of the scene and how best to approach it.
Improving firefighter safety and efficiency at the scene
To enhance their safety, every firefighter entering the building can be equipped with wearable technology. Helmet video cameras with wireless feeds connected to the firetruck enable incident commanders to see what their firefighters are viewing inside the structure, helping them to chart the best response. Using GPS technology, incident commanders can see where each firefighter is located inside, making sure their teams are strategically positioned to fight the fire. In the future, wearable technology built into firefighters’ gear will allow for real-time monitoring of oxygen levels, body heat, hydration, heart rate, and other vital signs—so they can provide assistance immediately when it’s needed.
Learning from the response after the incident
After the fire has been safely extinguished, emergency personnel can review all of the video footage and other data, discussing areas of concern to help their teams improve both their future response and their safety. Moreover, all of this information can be integrated with data from past fires to better understand how best to respond when the next fire occurs.
This isn’t some futuristic scenario. The advanced technology already exists to make firefighting safer and more effective. I believe putting it to use is just a matter of time.