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Every day, across the globe, emergency services teams come to people’s aid no matter the situation to ensure their safety. Whether it’s during a natural disaster, or at a significant event, the emergency services are on hand to face any challenge that comes their way. When supporting this crucial workforce, it is essential that they have robust and reliable connectivity. Technology is becoming a vital aspect of public safety and security worldwide, and this trend is only likely to grow. For these new devices to work effectively, full-scale coverage must be in place, and when it comes to people’s safety, there is no room for error. The need for redundancy and high bandwidth Two of the paramount tools at emergency services disposal are video surveillance and communication devices. Constant visibility and communication are often essential to protecting people and saving lives. The benefits range from providing first responders with a clear picture and understanding of the situation they are about to encounter; to providing greater safety during public events by enabling officers to control crowds and manage traffic effectively. Enhancing visibility and sharing information is particularly crucial during fires to guide firefighters and vehicles through flames and smoke, and to allow the central command center to organize resources effectively. Technology is becoming a vital aspect of public safety and security worldwide, and this trend is only likely to grow Despite any potential challenges ensuring network connectivity may create, public safety organizations cannot compromise when it comes to optimizing security. For IP video surveillance and cellphone broadband connectivity to operate effectively, they require redundancy and high bandwidth. Without these connectivity attributes, devices become useless; for example, there are municipalities where as much as 50 percent of the camera network is offline because of poor product choices and inferior network design and installation. Equally, poor quality networking can be just as limiting as it can lead to public safety organizations being unable to receive real-time data. All areas must also have adequate bandwidth to access data, such as on-scene video, aerial imagery, maps, and images, and many existing public safety networks do not have that capacity. Supporting security and safety robotics Robots and drones have seen a considerable increase in popularity this year, with 60 million such machines being deployed according to ABI Research. They offer a wealth of potential to emergency services teams, whether on land, air, or sea. For example, water rescue robots can go where humans cannot, earthquake and fire robots can search through otherwise non-navigable areas, and drones can survey vast regions. However, for these wireless devices to work effectively, they rely on many features. They need low power consumption so as not to heavily burden the onboard power source of the robotic device and, perhaps, a high level of encryption so information cannot be stolen or hacked. There are also benefits to security and safety as robotic devices can communicate with one another peer-to-peer. Directly mounting radios to robots and drones, fosters dynamic self-learning, data sharing, and more wireless paths in the event one or more of the devices in an area do not have a link to fixed infrastructure. Water rescue robots can go where humans cannot, earthquake and fire robots can search through otherwise non-navigable areas, and drones can survey vast regions The main component that security and safety robotics require is redundant and resilient connections. If the connection is lost, the connected device will go into “safe” mode and stop. Creating a high capacity network that supports mobile devices in complex and fast-moving environments is not a simple task. In many cases, it requires a network that supports many wireless connections and allows for many paths in and out, so that if a link is lost, another path is available for data transmission and reception. This type of network is the best way to ensure that police, firefighters, and emergency units can access and send large amounts of data from wherever they are and in real-time making a massive difference to the efficiency of the emergency services. An example of this is Rajant’s private Kinetic Mesh® network, a wireless network ensuring no single point of failure. It offers reliable, intelligent, and secure wireless broadband connectivity that survives and thrives in evolving and mobility-driven environments. It forms a “living” mesh network that can move with and adapt to the evolving communication requirements of public safety organizations. Technology in action Back in October 2019, the heat from the sun, combined with winds gusting through the foothills of El Capitán Canyon in California, sparked a bush fire in the overly dry, desert hills. Despite four hundred and twenty acres being burnt, firefighters used their experience and skills combined with newfound digital technology to ensure that no structures were damaged, and there were no reported injuries. The Santa Barbara County Fire Department, Cal Fire, the U.S Forest Service, and other agencies were immediately dispatched to contain the fire. More than 200 firefighters were needed to combat the fire and reinforce containment lines with helicopters and drones in the air and bulldozers on the ground. To operate this equipment, mesh radio nodes, bonded cellular, and satellite technologies were used to link the communication gap in locations where signals are often dropped. Rajant BreadCrumb® nodes were mounted to the fire-breaking, 30-ton bulldozers manned by trained firefighters to uproot vegetation and eliminate the materials that would further spread the fire. Robots and drones have seen a considerable increase in popularity this year, with 60 million such machines being deployed The reliable connectivity allowed the bulldozers to not only easily communicate with each other and the base, but also to send video footage and data to the tactical truck and central command post over cellular and SAT networks. This situational awareness data transfer allowed for greater efficiency, as well as increased safety for the public and the firefighters. Reliability when you need it most Reliable connectivity solutions are being embraced across the emergency services due to the innumerable benefits they bring to ensuring the safety of the public. For police, firefighters, and emergency units, dependable connectivity allows for rapid, real-time response, and the use of technology can save lives in ways that wouldn’t have seemed possible a decade ago. Planned and unplanned events can benefit from the new technology being introduced, and emergency services need to make sure they have the network capabilities to support them. For environments that are challenging and hostile, this requires a network available on-demand, which can withstand the demands of harsh conditions and mobility while maintaining a level of redundancy and high bandwidth that allows for accessing and sending large amounts of data from any location.
Want to know an easy way to judge the quality of a fire department? Look at how much they train. Career, volunteer or combination, fire departments become successful through training. Yet all training is not equal. Focus too much on hands-on training (HOT) and you could be missing important legal and compliance updates. Lean heavily on web-based training and you may fail to identify shortcomings in skills proficiencies. Keep students confined to a classroom and you may lose their interest quickly. Not surprisingly, a balance of all three types of training is needed to produce competent, empowered firefighters. For this article, I was challenged to think about what’s missing from our current fire training programs. As I thought about the varied way we approach fire training, three issues jumped out at me. Base training on facts and statistics Take advantage of new technologies Incorporate policy into your training Your training program should also be strong in the types of calls you respond to most Base Training On Facts And Statistics If your department has a robust training program, outlined by a calendar of various topics and employing a mix of HOT, online and classroom training, you’re ahead of the curve. But even in departments with well-developed training programs, training is often based on preference or habit, not data. Think about the topics in your training program. Do you know why they’re included? Do they match your call make-up? Are they targeting specific skill shortcomings? (And yes, we all have them!)What’s missing from many fire department training programs is a detailed needs assessment What’s missing from many fire department training programs is a detailed needs assessment that in turn establishes a factual basis for the year’s training topics. The needs assessment should include: Surveying the members to determine the types of training they want or feel they need. Measuring firefighter proficiency on basic tasks, such as NFPA 1403 drills, NFPA 1710 drills and EMS patient assessment skills audits, to assess personnel by mandate or by industry best practice. This will identify skills deficiencies to address through training. Incorporating call volume statistics and details. A significant percentage of the calls fire departments respond to are EMS and vehicle extrication But I’d venture to guess the training programs of most departments don’t match those percentages. Yes, you need to train for the high-risk, low-frequency tasks. But your training program should also be strong in the types of calls you respond to most. Incorporating these “facts and stats” into your training program will help you keep it fresh, relevant and interesting. Firefighters can use their phones and tablets to access department training information and complete training assignments Take Advantage Of New Technologies There is something to be said for back-to-the-basics, keep-it-simple firefighter training. But it’s a mistake to ignore technological advances. From teaching safe apparatus backing procedures to practicing hoseline deployment and Vent/Enter/Isolate/Search (VEIS) tactics, instructors have more options than ever before. Some instructors regard simulators as second-rate to “the real thing.” Certainly, simulation and other forms of technology-driven instruction can’t replace the value of hands-on experience. But they can augment it in important ways. Driver simulators, for example, not only save money because apparatus don’t have to be taken out of service or sustain wear and tear; they also provide an environment where firefighters can learn without risk of injury. If sitting behind a computer isn’t your kind of thing, live-burn simulators, vehicle fire simulators and hazmat simulators are available—and they all significantly boost training efficiency.Technology will never replace hands-on instruction, but it can facilitate it But you don’t need fancy simulators to incorporate technology into your fire training program. Learning management systems (LMS) are another important tool that can increase training program efficiency. Although they’ve been around for a long time, LMS continue to improve. The ability to integrate with mobile devices is huge, allowing firefighters to use their phones and tablets to access department training information and complete training assignments. Leveraging this technology can allow you to more efficiently manage information, schedule training and free up valuable time needed for other important tasks. If you’ve attended some of the larger regional or national fire conferences recently, you may have had the opportunity to see audience response technology in action. By capturing the firefighters’ responses to questions in real-time, instructors can adjust the material to reflect students’ knowledge level. Audience response is also simply a great way to keep firefighters engaged. Technology will never replace hands-on instruction, but it can facilitate it. If you’re using training methods that haven’t changed in decades, something’s missing from your training program. Without incorporating policy into your training, you’re only giving your firefighters half the equation Incorporate Policy Into Your Training I saved the biggest and best for last. When I work with fire departments across the country, I repeatedly discover the failure to incorporate policy into training. Think about it: Training curricula are almost always designed around procedures—the how of doing something. But isn’t the why just as important? And that’s what policy is all about. Without incorporating policy into your training, you’re only giving your firefighters half the equation.Inevitably firefighters will encounter times when following the procedure isn’t possible Inevitably firefighters will encounter times when following the procedure isn’t possible. That’s when policy training kicks in—firefighters understand the fundamental objective, and they can think on their feet about how to achieve it. Training on policy also helps departments address the issues that so often get firefighters into trouble. How many of your firefighters really understand your department’s social media policy? What about the rules surrounding sick time usage? These are things that trip up firefighters time and time again. If you’re not training on policies, it’s unlikely firefighters remember them. How many of your firefighters really understand your department’s social media policy? In addition, normalization of deviance is a risk to every organization. When personnel fail to follow policies and no negative repercussions result, it can quickly establish a new normal. Policy-based training resets the “normal” and makes sure that members of the organization comply with the policy and not what they think the policy says.Most line-of-duty death reports cite failure to comply with policy or lack of adequate policy Fire instructors often avoid training on policy because they regard it as boring or unrelated to what really matters—firefighter safety and survival. Yet most line-of-duty death reports cite failure to comply with policy or lack of adequate policy as contributing factors in the incident. If you’re worried that policy will make your training program dry and uninteresting, link it to real-world events. An online search provides lots of examples of when things went wrong and how adherence to policy might have produced a different outcome. And limit policy training to small chunks. Take out a 10-page policy and go through it line by line, and your students’ eyes will glaze over in seconds. Instead, look for ways to enrich your current training by bringing relevant pieces of policy into it. Your firefighters will be learning the department’s policies without even realizing it! Focus On Continuous Improvement Fire chiefs and fire instructors have a challenging job. Budgets are tight, and training is often one of the first things to be cut. Yet we need firefighters to be proficient in all-hazards response. Every department has a long training wish list. But if we focus on continuous quality improvement, we can get a little better each year. Looking for opportunities to incorporate statistics, technology and policy into our training is a good place to start.
In communities of all sizes, fire crews are always in need of finding ways to improve preparedness and reduce risk. When fire departments use software systems that meet these needs, they stay safer and more informed on the scene. They also ensure that citizens stay safer during fire emergencies. Since the first organized response to a fire emergency began, firefighters have always made it a point to prevent injuries and minimize fire-related damage. However, since that time, technology has improved virtually everything about fire response, from the way crews get to the scene, to the information they have in transit about the emergency, to what they need to do upon arrival. This knowledge means fire crews no longer need to use three-ring binders full of documents to search for information. Instead, they use mobile data terminals (MDTs) and mobile fire software apps on smartphones, laptops, or tablets in their ladder trucks, fire engines, and other vehicles, which provide them with instant access to the data they need when it’s needed. Fire crews no longer need to use three-ring binders full of documents to search for information Mission Critical Data For Emergencies MDTs work directly with a computer aided dispatch (CAD) system to show first responders information about an emergency. With this technology, mission-critical data with real-time information about an emergency is available for fire crews. Having this data on hand helps keep crews safe, protect citizens, and reduce the risk of catastrophic damage to the structure involved. For example, if fire crews respond to a structure fire and dispatchers receive information while on the call that the roof collapsed before crews arrival, fire crews are made aware of this information in real time. Any information dispatchers receive about the emergency is immediately available for fire crews using an MDT. Information included in an MDT includes location of hazardous chemicals on site, knowledge of any hazardous materials on site, owner contact information, building entrance points and floorplans, and hydrant location. Any information dispatchers receive about the emergency is immediately available for fire crews Advance Planning For Fire Rescue MDTs are vital components to fire rescue. These ruggedized laptops are often mounted in a firetruck and crews communicate with one another regarding the data dispatchers share. When fire crews do not have access to an MDT, they rely upon radio transmissions, cell phones, and pagers to share information. Without a way to share this information in transit, fire crews create attack plans on the scene. This results in more time being spent planning rather than tackling the fire emergency, which could result in more damage and injuries or loss of life. For instance, fires double in size every 30 seconds. When technology can be leveraged so fire crews can create an attack plan while in transit, they reduce risk on the scene. Advanced planning helps each member of the crew know what he or she is doing on the scene based on their roles. Mobile Communication Apps Another way fire crews improve preparedness and reduce risk in a fire response is through the use of a mobile fire software application that can be used on smartphones, laptops, and tablets, and works seamlessly with MDTs.Mobile apps help bridge the gap between the communication received from dispatch to all members of a fire crew Mobile apps help bridge the gap between the communication received from dispatch to all members of a fire crew. Plus, with a mobile app that knows who’s using the device, it can automatically populate the information the user needs based on the location of the user and the user’s role. That means personalized information is delivered as it is needed, which helps crew members to begin their attack plans before arriving on the scene. Crews that use mobile apps arrive on the scene better prepared to attack the fire immediately, thereby saving time and reducing risk. Another benefit of using mobile fire apps is that they are less costly than other software solutions, which helps fire departments purchase more for crews. Many fire departments use MDTs and mobile fire apps so that crews are well-equipped with informational tools. With this opportunity to arrive more prepared on the scene, fire crews can reduce risk to themselves and those involved in the emergency. Vital information is placed into the hands of crew members no matter where they are in the rig, ladder truck, or fire engine Accessible Information For Fire Crews Both mobile fire apps and MDTs work together to harness the power of CAD and bring it directly to fire crews. Vital information is placed into the hands of crew members no matter where they are in the rig, ladder truck, or fire engine. Plus, mobile fire apps can be used by volunteer firefighters, which helps ensure they are as connected to details about the emergency as possible.Another benefit of technology in the world of firefighting is that mobile fire apps and MDTs can work together Fire crews using both have vital routing information, data regarding the structure involved, pre-plans, history, access to their own maps, and anything else that enhances contextual awareness for crews.Another benefit of technology in the world of firefighting is that mobile fire apps and MDTs can work together. While both harness the power of CAD and bring it directly to fire crews, an app is more accessible for crews in the back of the rig or ladder truck. Considerations When Purchasing Mobile Data Terminals The most important thing for fire departments to consider before purchasing an MDT or mobile app is this: Ensure that the software allows for users to take their own CAD information, so they can extend its functionality. These fire software systems should also be intuitive so that they know who is using it and what information they need. They should also be hands-free and understand spoken commands and have the capacity to take those commands and escalate to the next level. By making use of the software systems available to fire departments, crews experience a better use of their time, access relevant information for all roles, and stay safer on the scene through better preparedness and risk reduction.
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