Digitising Frontline Emergency Services
Whether racing to the scene of a fire, road traffic accident or natural disaster, the more knowledge and foresight that emergency fire crews have about the incident they’re about to face, the better their response will be. In such situations, fast access to accurate and reliable information is essential. However, the challenging nature of emergency incidents can make it very hard for crews arriving on-scene to immediately know what information they can trust and what should be disregarded. Fortunately, new technology, in the form of dependable and connected digital devices, is helping to solve this critical issue.
A more connected emergency response
Digital transformation is playing a pivotal role in the evolution of emergency first response. Migration to digital systems and mobile devices enables fire crews to coordinate response strategies and share critical information faster than ever before. Moreover, the way these new systems are designed means first responders can take digital devices straight from their vehicles into the field with them, greatly improving situational awareness when away from the command centre.
For example, fire crews can now use a single device to navigate to an incident, identify hazards on scene, complete site surveys, and access other vital information, all while on the move, allowing them to manage the scenario faced much more efficiently.
However, doing so requires the right tools for the job. The challenging environments regularly encountered by fire crews means the devices they use must be able to withstand regular knocks and drops, exposure to water, large temperature fluctuations, and much more. For this reason, an overwhelming number of emergency services organisations are turning to rugged digital technology.
The right tool for the job
Rugged devices, including those designed by Getac, are purpose built to thrive in situations like those faced by fire crews every day. MIL-STD and IP certifications mean firefighters can take them directly onto the scene of an incident without fear of damage or failure. The devices aren’t just rugged either. They also feature powerful processors and multiple connectivity options, meaning crews on the frontline can communicate and receive the latest intelligence updates as soon as they become available.
For example, in the past, fire crews would have to conduct exhaustive manual room-to-room searches to locate trapped victims at the scene of an incident. The larger the building, the longer it would take. Now, the same fire crews can use rugged digital devices on-scene to view building blueprints in real-time and conduct focussed searches that prioritise areas where people are more likely to be, saving significant amounts of time.
In addition to blueprints and building plans, the devices can also be preloaded with information on buildings and vehicles that house/carry hazardous materials, enabling firefighters to plan accordingly in the event of a fire involving potentially dangerous chemicals.
Optimised command and control
It’s not just firefighting itself where digital technology is now playing a key role. In many rural areas of the UK, major firefighting equipment is now held at a county level and shared between local firefighting teams as needed. This means effective command and control has become increasingly important, with central command teams having to rapidly assess incidents as they occur and dispatch an appropriate response as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, digital transformation of emergency vehicles and ground crews means incident controllers can now liaise directly with first responders already at the scene to understand the level of response required. What’s more, responses can be adapted in real-time as the incident itself unfolds and the needs of the responders change.
Using this more connected approach, control centres can ensure responses are both effective and proportional to the situation faced. Major incidents quickly get all the support they need, while minor incidents don’t have multiple crews responding unnecessarily, helping to save time and resources.
No two emergency incidents are ever quite the same, which is what makes emergency first response so challenging. In many cases, just a few minutes, or even seconds, can be the difference between life and death for those involved. Digital transformation has helped to significantly improve the speed at which information can be shared between central command and emergency responders on the ground, helping to save precious time. However, doing so effectively requires devices that can be relied on to perform in the challenging environments that fire crews at the scene often face. This is why more and more emergency services organisations are adopting rugged technology as the backbone of their digital systems, and it’s why you should too.
By Paul Waddilove, Managing Director, UK and Nordics at Getac