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Firefighter safety:
How technology
can help

Author: Adam Kimmel

Firefighters make sacrifices for the safety of our communities and with the inherent risks posed by their day-to-day work, firefighter safety is always a significant concern. Modern-day firefighters benefit from advanced technology to help them gain situational awareness, monitor their health conditions, and communicate with police, paramedics, and other emergency personnel. However, for all the advanced tools they have to use, these devices must maintain connectivity and functionality in order to improve and deliver firefighter safety.

How are connectivity and device functionality integral to fire service safety?

There are several ways connected technology can help enable firefighter safety:

  • More effective technology can provide firefighters with information they would not previously have had access to, such as digital building plans.
  • Innovative technology, such as cloud-based software solutions, can process data to help shorten response times and improve the accuracy of diagnosing a fire service safety situation.
  • Embedded telematics sensors can help to keep tabs on the location and performance of vehicles to help maintain safety.
  • Deployable solutions can create cellular coverage in areas where wireless coverage is not available.

Connection issues or device incompatibilities delay these essential steps when response times are critical to guarantee firefighter safety.  Accessible and reliable wireless network access gives emergency teams situational awareness and the ability to coordinate their responses quickly through seamless connections to the incident commander and each other.

What technologies are involved with fire service safety?

Technology to protect firefighters operates not only at the scene of an incident but also offsite, where Incident Command (IC) and support staff work to keep their teams, and the public, safe.

Examples of specific technologies include:

  • Thermal imaging technology identifies hot spots and ventilation points, making it easier to navigate a building with limited or no visibility.  It can also aid in search and rescue missions, helping to locate victims.
  • Emergency communications centers (also known as public safety answering points, or PSAPs) handle incoming 911 calls, dispatch emergency response, and provide vital instructions to emergency callers. A 911 caller's location can be mapped into a computer-aided dispatch system (CAD), which typically includes address (and in some cases X and Y location coordinates), locations of fire hydrants, fire trails, helicopter landing zones, detailed pre-incident aerial surveys, and road hazards that could slow an emergency response.
  • Command personnel can view near-real-time data from the CAD and interface with vehicle location hardware and responder location. This allows for sophisticated visual mapping and navigation capabilities.
  • The inclusion of health status sensors (such as wearables), internal and external temperature sensors, and wireless communication modules in firefighter equipment allow the health of firefighters to be monitored in near real-time.
  • The development of Z-axis technology, which will provide vertical location information as well as latitude and longitude, will help dispatchers improve the ability to locate first responders, emergency callers, and those needing rescuing, particularly in multistory buildings.

How will 5G and the 5G edge help to increase firefighter safety?

Processing this flood of data, especially streaming video, can consume a significant chunk of bandwidth, potentially blocking other critical incoming and outgoing information—and slowing response times.  As the adoption of 5G technology increases, 5G will enhance fire safety use cases and help to enable other new video feeds into Incident Command operations.

Keeping firefighters and the community safe is not a cheap exercise.  Solutions such as telematics can help monitor key performance metrics to help promote safety, improve routing, reduce idling and fuel consumption, increase resource utilization—and help curb costs.

Learn more about Verizon's solutions for fire service safety in the public sector.