How New Tech Improves FD Safety

New technological innovations are making it easier for fire departments to control massive blazes and stay safe while responding to emergencies

What Happened?
A variety of new technological innovations are making it easier for fire departments to control massive blazes and stay safe while responding to emergencies. A more efficient fire department can have a significant impact on community sustainability.

From Above
The recent fire in Los Angeles demonstrates the impact of modern firefighting technology. Because the fire grew so massive so quickly, the Los Angeles Fire Department could see the extent of the disaster clearly from the street. The biggest challenge for the department was not going to be locating all the sources of fire, but rather getting enough water available to put it out, NBC News reported.

The LAFD has access to helicopters that survey a situation and report back live video footage and information to the firefighters on the ground to determine how best to contain and extinguish the flames. Having a bird’s eye view of the scene and real-time data can help fire departments gather and analyze the information to decide how to deploy resources most effectively. , NBC News reported.

Thermal Imaging
The Los Angeles Fire Department and fire departments across the country are investing in thermal imaging cameras that are able withstand up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit to provide detailed pictures of buildings engulfed in flames. The technology helps firefighters determine the size and extend of the fire from outside of a room or building before entering.

Firefighters can point the cameras toward heat and see how the temperature changes throughout a room, as well as see the layout of the situation and find a victim through thick smoke. Capturing these images and details has a significant impact on firefighter safety and efficiency by providing a guide through hazardous environments, WBBJ reported.

Drones
Fire departments in Austin and Detroit are considering adding drone technology to their toolkits in an effort to further bolster emergency responder efficacy. The Austin City Council recently approved a plan to equip the city’s fire department with drones to gather video footage and information from the sky during an emergency. Unlike helicopters, drones can be remotely controlled and are relatively inexpensive, allowing the city to put more cameras in the sky to get a complete picture of the emergency situation, KXAN reported.

The Detroit Fire Department, similarly, may partner with a drone provider to send the devices into the sky when emergencies arise. Rather than purchase the drones, the fire department would rent them out on an as-need basis when large fires require quick response time and extensive resource management, MLive reported.

On-Going Research
In Worcester, Massachusetts, a devastating fire took the lives of six local firefighters 15 years ago. To honor their memory and prevent similar events from occurring, the Worcester Polytechnic Institute created the Center for First Responder Technology. The research facility is focused on creating new technologies to keep firefighters safe and communities less vulnerable to devastating fires.

Over the past 15 years, the center has worked on a number of projects including:

  • Radio frequency technology
  • Sophisticated computer algorithms
  • Inertial navigation and image processing
  • Physiological monitoring
  • Flashover protection
  • Toxic gas protection
  • Fireproof attack hose

The center also offers annual workshops to bring together researchers, business leaders, government agencies and first responders to share their ideas and research developments.

Rising Fire Departments
EfficientGov has reported on several fire department trends including new technologies and alternative organizational models.

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EfficientGov is an independent information service providing innovative solutions to fiscal and operational challenges facing cities and towns around the world.