Fire service technology — friend or foe?

CarolinaFireJournal - By Shane Gibbs
By Shane Gibbs
01/11/2012 -

As I write this column I sit at my desk wondering what technology will exist in the next 10, 20 or even 30 years? Over the last two decades the world has seen a tremendous change in the way we live our day-to-day lives because of advancements in technology.


Technology has affected every aspect of our lives whether we agree with it or not. From our professional to our personal lives, technology drives the world that we know today. From the android market to the app store it seems that there’s an app for anything that can make our lives easier. Over the years this technology has crept its way onto the fireground and into our apparatus.

The fire service has been around for a long time now and everybody that’s a member knows that little has changed in the core mission of the service — and that is to put the wet stuff on the red stuff. However, over the last 20 years departments have seen the value of providing a safer and higher quality service to their community. Some of this quality service comes from implementing technology within the department to aid in the delivery of our services to the community.

Some of the things that quickly come to mind that have made our jobs more convenient are thermal imaging cameras, fireground tracking devices, mobile mapping, smartphones, tablets and SCBA technology. Some of these products have been around for a while and all have been greatly improved upon over the last couple of years, while others have just arrived on the scene during that time.

Two products in particular that are making a huge presence in fire departments nationwide are tablet PCs and Smartphones. These devices have revolutionized the way tasks are completed. Some of the applications that these devices are being used for include GPS, mobile mapping, fire inspections, fire prevention, fire investigations, emergency medical reporting scheduling and incident command. The list is endless on how these devices can be utilized to help in streamlining the daily operations of some departments.

Not only can the use of these devices in the field increase productivity, they also allow the user the ability to sync with desktops or department servers. This enables the user to access any documents that can’t be kept or retrieved on the device being used in the field. By having this capability the amount of information available to the user is endless and up to date.

The days of lugging around multiple items to do a single task are coming to an end. These devices not only simplify life but they also help in making everything more standard. Regardless of your technology-related skill level, modern day devices and software is simplifying and streamlining many tasks that fire departments, across the nation engage in on a daily basis.

As we look to the future full of additional technological advancements in tools and equipment, we must remember not to rely upon technology 100 percent. We all know that in the heat of battle, batteries do die, cameras do break and computers do crash. No matter how easy these devices make our lives, at some point you do have to revert back to the old pen and paper to get the job done.

Shane Gibbs works with the City of Seneca Fire Department in Seneca, SC. He serves as the department’s fire marshal.
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