Constant visibility & communication essential

Constant visibility & communication essential

Don Gilbreath, Vice President of Systems with Rajant explains how the company is working on containing wildfires in California. 

Whether firefighters are responding to a fire in an urban city or remote local village, it’s critical that they can access vital voice, data, and video communications while remaining confident that the connection will be available at all times, and in all environments.

This is particularly the case as wildfires continue to grow in the United States and across the globe. According to the National Interagency Fire Centre (NIFC)1, from 1st January to 2nd November 2019 alone, there were more than 46,700 wildfires across the USA. 

However, if firefighters are to provide an effective and real-time response to disasters such as these, they require constant visibility and communication. 

Overcoming challenges

Anytime, anywhere connectivity is critical to public safety operations, including firefighting. But, ensuring this connectivity is in place is no easy feat. Today’s public safety organisations are not only tasked with dealing with emergency situations but must do so while addressing the requests of government security, law enforcement, first responders, and citizens.

Incompatible technology and equipment also present hurdles to firefighters restricting access to vital information and applications. Inevitably, firefighting crews are held back from receiving real-time data, which is vital in critical emergencies.

While new technology and applications are emerging to address this, they require increased bandwidth to support them. If a network has insufficient bandwidth capacity, real-time access to files such as on-scene video, aerial imagery, and maps may not be possible. Furthermore, on-the-move visibility is essential in providing firefighters with the comprehensive situational awareness they require when dealing with a range of life-threatening incidents, whether this be wildfires, water rescues or vehicle, aircraft, or train accidents.

In emergency situations, fire departments rely on constant communication to enable fast response times, as well as maintain contact between the crew and the control room. Furthermore, this allows firefighters to coordinate with additional teams and other emergency service providers in disasters. 

With so much at stake, it is evident that access to real-time, reliable communications during disasters is mission-critical and, in some cases, can mean the difference between life or death. 

Fighting fires 

When fighting fires with bulldozers, it is vital that the commander in control is able to receive data from each dozer to manage fighting the fire collectively as a team and to track each dozer individually – as there is a firefighter in each bulldozer who could become trapped by the fire’s erratic behavior. While the dozer’s job is to cut the fire line, they are also essential in collecting vital information about the fire.

By combining the use of drones with real-time mapping data, this can enhance situational awareness by feeding information back to the command post or emergency operations centre. This will enable firefighters on the ground and those in the control centre to stay ahead of the fast-moving fires, which can be unpredictable and change at the whim of weather and other variables.

Situational awareness fed by data sets from the fields and other sources is critical, however, the safety of firefighters is paramount. For firefighters, it can be difficult during a fire to relay a message or their exact position back to the control centre. By equipping each bulldozer with video communications, and other critical apps to assist, all of the data can be transmitted back to the command control centre where the fire operation is managed remotely.