Mobile Data in Fire and Rescue Services

Read about this interesting trend in the Command Post newsletter:
Mr Kalasa,
vice president of Emergency Services Group-ACS, is interviewed about the trends and issues of Mobile Computing and fire and rescue work.

“Onboard computers linked to station house databases are becoming more common in the fire and emergency services. Sanjay Kalasa, vice president of Emergency Services Group-ACS, discusses some of the uses, trends and barriers surrounding in-truck computers.”

I would agree with mr Kalasa on many of the issues but there some aspects of what he says that is in conflict with my studies. First of all, I am not too sure that local applications without internet connection will bring the benefits that could be achieved. First of all, Mobile data in fire and rescue work is not just an issue about having access to preplans and to get the alarm info to the fire crew in a vehicle. When a fire and rescue services invests in this type of technology, completly new features will become possible. For example when the mobile solutions have constant internet connectivity, the ability to stay visible for other fire units or other emergency actors will be a very natural part of the work. This will enable self syncronization and a less central and hierarchical command. When the actors at the scene of an accident have internet connectivity, they will be able to share information, resource updates and status info across organizational boundaries. Further, when one actor has access to a certain piece of information, this information could be made publicly available across the network of actors without any need to explicitly send the information to them.

The greatest barrier to this type of technology is not a lack of many or to small investment budgets. From my perspective, the greatest barrier is that software vendors do not exploit the possibility to use low-cost hardware and software to make available information that really does not require much computing power. Further, software vendors does not make use of the existing information technology that is already in place and in use, but rather propose that additional hardware needs to be installed in the vehicles.

In the future, mobile computing will improve how emergency response is conducted. Command centres will shift from being a centralised command point to be more of a information service function, delivering information and providing expertise. Firefighters will not accept to spend much time on information search or reading alot of information from organizational repositories. They will instead ask the command centre / service centre for “information backup” which means that they can focus on the physical work at the scene and more time-consuming information management will be done by the guys at the command centre.

The success of mobile computing in fire and rescue services is dependent on the ability of software vendors to pay attention on the temporal aspects of emergency response work, and further, design the applications and provide functionality that is based on and alinged to the collective work that emergency response work is all about.


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