8. Technology

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Utilize available technology wherever it can produce higher levels of health and safety.

A major study conducted in 2006 by the United States Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association focused on the needs of U.S. fire departments. Where technology is concerned, the fire service is certainly gaining ground, but lags in important indicators. For instance, 24% of fire departments lack internet access, which means they lack access to information about emerging technology and actual web-based technologies. An estimated 60% of fire departments do not have enough self-contained breathing apparatus to equip all firefighters on a shift. Three-fifths (60%) of fire departments have at least some SCBA units that are least 10 years old. An estimated half (48%) of fire departments do not have enough personal alert system (PASS) devices to equip all their firefighters. These are basics, second nature to many of us, and yet we forget that tens of thousands of firefighters are responding everyday dangerously lacking basic levels of safety (USFA, Four Years Later—A Second Needs Assessment of the U.S. Fire Service, 2006).

Regarding new and emerging technology, the USFA/NFPA study found the following:

  • A majority (55%) of fire departments now own thermal imaging cameras, and another one-fourth have plans to acquire them. A previous survey (2001) reported that 24% of departments had such cameras, and the majority of those without them had no plans to acquire one.
  • Only one department in 17 had mobile data terminals (6% of departments, up 4% from 2001), though the majority of fire departments protecting at least 100,000 population have them. Most departments with without mobile data terminals (69% overall) still have no plans to acquire them.
  • Only one department in 31 has advanced personnel location equipment, though one-fourth of the fire departments protecting communities of at least 500,000 population have them.
  • Only one department in 18 has equipment to collect chemical or biological samples for remote analysis, though most of the fire departments protecting communities of at least 100,000 population have such equipment.

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