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How technology in the fire service has changed over the years

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That big siren used to go off every day at noon and also whenever there was a fire call.  Everyone could here that siren from their house and it worked well, unless you weren’t within ear shot of the siren.  When someone called 911, all the firefighter’s phones would ring to let us know there was a call.  One person stayed on the phone while everyone else headed for the station. We have replaced that big old siren with smaller pagers, and today we are even dispatched with a text message to our cell phone.  Technology has changed a lot on the fire service in the last 40 years.

You could find a typewriter in the dispatch office of every fire station, but today you won’t find a typewriter in any firehouse.  Daily journals were typed using carbon paper so that we could distribute the list of calls for the day.  Newspapers would stop by for their copy since there was no fax or copy machines available.  Today the media knows about our calls before we get there, and they usually meet us there with their video cameras.  Sometimes we fax a daily event page to the newspaper, but even more common is an email distribution list to spread our events. Social media can also do a good job of getting information out to the public.

We all hate doing paperwork.  Today we don’t use much paper because we enter all the information into our computer data base.  Everything we do gets recorded in the computer.  A few include training, fire calls, EMS calls and even the mileage of our vehicles. The good news is that all that time we spend entering data into the computer makes it simple to get statistics from that information. We could never run reports to determine the busiest day of the week when we used the typewriter.  Now it is only a couple keystrokes to get any statistic we need.

The apparatus floors of our fire station used to be covered with black soot from the diesel engines starting up and blowing those black clouds of smoke when we accelerate going out the door. There wasn’t much we could do to keep that nasty smoke out of our station until someone developed exhaust ventilation systems.  Today we have inflatable boots that hold exhaust hoses to out vehicles.  As we drive out, the inflated boot deflates leaving the hose behind right as we leave the door.  These systems work very well and keep us from breathing all that vehicle exhaust.

Training officers and other instructors needed to travel from station to station to deliver training information.  One station at a time would get training.  Today we used high tech video conferencing systems so we can all train together, even when we are miles apart.  Big screen monitors allow us to watch instructors and class participants across town, or across the country.

One of the most productive changes is the use of computerized maps and building preplans. Instead of that old paper map we now have digital maps with information specific to each building, and the exact location of every fire hydrant.  We don’t need to unfold that map.  We just need to tap on the computer screen.

Change can be tough but these technology changes have allowed us to be more efficient, and provide much better service.  We can now get where we need to go faster and safer, and we can do our job better.  When it comes to new technology I’m all for it.

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