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Future of First Response – Vision for Firefighting


Bianchi: There are so many, so many good parts about the job. I mean, there’s just the camaraderie in the fire station. There’s all kinds of different things that make it the best job I could think of. But really it’s after we go on a call where we make a difference. McGovern: It’s knowing that anything I do and everything I do on my job influences and impacts somebody, somewhere along the line. Narrator: Firefighters put themselves under incredible physical and mental stress to keep us safe. In the future, even their station gear will work to keep them safe. A lightweight layer will provide protection, while sensors will monitor their health status and location. This data is useful for individual firefighters monitoring their own fitness and it can be lifesaving in a fire, as it allows command to see the status of everyone on scene. Hagan: From the perspective of a fire ground commander, it’s very challenging to keep track of where all of your resources are and what they’re doing and when they’re going to run out of air and how we can get fresh crews in to relieve them. Narrator: Future firefighters will have instant access to important information before they arrive on scene. Firefighter: We have fire showing on the Otis Street side. Hydrants on both corners are in service. Ladder 32 is on Summer Street, so let’s go in from Otis. McGovern: When we get the call, you know, you’re sliding the pole, adrenaline’s going, we’re going to go do something cool. Forristall: From the minute the call comes in, you’re supposed to try to figure out, you know, what can I do? What can I do to help? What can I do to make it better? Narrator: As sensors become more common in buildings, commanding officers will have a better picture of the structure, the location of the fire, the victims and that status of all responders on scene. Firefighter: The building is showing some structural damage in stairway 2 in the Alpha Delta corner. Steer clear of that area. McGovern: There’s so much going on, on the outside, but us as humans, we’re only able to process so much. Forristall: You kind of get tunnel vision, so you can focus on what your job is. You don’t want that tunnel vision to turn into something that blinds you. Firefighter: Engine 2, Mike’s heart rate just went way up. Can you check on him? Response: Got him, Chief. He’s fine, but we’re going to pull out. Can you send another engine? Narrator: Future firefighters will have lighter turnout gear that protects from toxins as well as heat. Communications and safety devices will be integrated into their helmets to reduce weight. The helmet’s face shield will have a heads-up display with orientation and temperature monitoring features. Air levels will take individual bio signals into account. When needed, built-in thermal imaging can be activated. Esposito: So in my experience as a chief, the two biggest challenges we have are firefighter tracking, knowing exactly where in a building or a structure or complex our firefighters are, and communications. Hagan: In communications, clear, reliable communications is a consistent challenge. Forristall: There’s a lot of things that can go wrong with our radio comms and it usually has to do with traffic. McGovern: In the three times I keyed my radio to call and declare “May Day,” nobody heard it. Narrator: Future communication devices will automatically switch to the best available frequency, ensuring important messages get through. Radio: May Day! May Day! May Day! Ladder 7 vet. I’m on the fifth floor. I’m stuck and running out of air. Can you get me out? Firefighter: Command to ladder 7 vet. You’re primary means of egress is shut off, so I’m going to redirect you. I’m sending you a path now and I’ll have rescue one meet you in the stairwell. Radio: Got it. On my way out now. Narrator: The face shield will display bread crumbs to help firefighters retrace their steps or find the best way out. Esposito: One of the concerns we still have with safety is the contamination level that they’re, might be bringing back to the firehouse. McGovern: Buildings are constructed differently today, furnished far differently than they were 20, 30, 40 years ago, where natural fibers burn relatively cleanly. Now we’re burning chemicals, we’re burning all sorts of things that get absorbed into our bodies. Command: Anyone exiting the building, keep your gear on. We’re picking up some low levels of radiation. Narrator: Future firefighters will have the tools to stay safe during and after the fire. Esposito: If we have some of these technologies in 15 years, it would allow us to spend more time on the overall strategy and the safety of the people, our firefighters, and the civilians at the scene than we currently do. Bianchi: Anything that can be done to make our jobs safer with the ability to still do our job, I think I’d want to say do it. Wouldn’t you want, wouldn’t you want to be able to do that? Wouldn’t you want to help out? Hagan: I think the technology is going to be crucial in the emergency services business in the future, because it’s going to put more and more useful information at our fingertips in a manner in which we can digest it and use it effectively.

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