Emerging Trends in Emergency Services
One of the most talked-about issues during this week’s APCO Convention & Expo is how to keep up with rapidly changing technology. Jeff Johnson, a retired Oregon firefighter and current vice chairman of FirstNet, said it’s critical to continue to learn, and that events like APCO’s annual convention provide that opportunity.
“At 55 years old I’m still learning, and I’m learning a great deal,” Johnson said. “And a lot of that learning comes from us coming to see the people we intend to serve and it is a fascinating experience. You meet some great people.”
FirstNet is a mission-critical, nationwide public safety broadband network dedicated to first responders, and Johnson said technology, wireless and public safety have to become synonymous.
Johnson acknowledged that judging the future of technology is difficult. He said early research estimates that only 9 percent of Americans would use a wireless device is proof that “even the best people in our industry have trouble seeing what the future is going to be.”
Johnson gave examples of pending technology he believes will be available in the future:
– A product that flashes lights at the traffic signal when a fire truck gets close enough to the signal. The technology will be able to determine how the traffic system is performing and coordinate how the traffic light system responds when the truck is approaching, managing multiple responders.
– A product that will be able to precisely determine where lost or downed firefighters are. (Today, Johnson said, the best technology is firefighters wearing a device that sends out an audible signal when a firefighter has been non-mobile for a period of time).
– Mobile fingerprint and voice recognition technology.
– Drones to operate over wildfires – away from bombers and tankers dropping retardant. Also the ability for drones to be able to screen real-time thermal information into a command center, which will be overlaid with wind and weather predictions.
– The shootout of the future: A dash cam, body cam or body microphone – a license plate reader runs the license plate, the camera on the body or car transmit the license plate. The police officer realizes the car is stolen – and as he approaches the driver’s window, the driver starts to shoot at the officer. Today, an officer would have to pull on its radio to call for help. But with future technology, the minute an officer draws his or her weapon, mace or nightstick, the technology will be available that the body camera or audio will automatically transmit to the closest police officers to that shootout. It will also be able to transmit instant video from the scene, giving a full picture of what exactly happened.
Johnson said the technology of the future will make emergency service personnel safer and provide the industry with much of the technology that already exists.
“What we’re seeing now is that the commercial marketplace is seeing that there’s going to be a mission-critical market for consumer-style, commercial-style devices that people have used for years,” Johnson said. “You’re seeing a tremendous migration from the commercial sector into the public safety sector. And that creates a fascinating challenge.”