How fire departments can use Bitcoin technology

Bitcoin, also known as blockchain, can upload pre-incident plans, help 911 services obtain information during high volume times, employee memos and log equipment inventory

DCE Brief

CHICAGO — North America was a frontier society, at times being careless and wasteful in the pursuit of expansion and manifest destiny. This meant North Americans experienced more and larger fires than anyone else, which led to the need for more effective firefighting weapons.

In the 17th and 18th century most homes were primitively heated and built from wood. Limited resources and weak transportation meant it was difficult to replace lost property, thus arose a need for fire prevention regulations and fire wardens to keep order on the fire scene.

Through the years, as building styles and technology changed, firefighters were forced to adapt and come up with solutions to new challenges. From buckets to hand pumps, all the way to steam and gas power, firefighters have become masters at adaptation. With the adoption of computer aided dispatch (CAD), first responders began their foray into the digital age. Current CAD systems have drawbacks such as centralized servers that require expensive backup power systems to ensure that the singular fail point remains operational, after all, lives and property depend on it.

The technology behind Bitcoin, known as blockchain, is a distributed ledger of all actions that have occurred on the network. Currently these actions are largely relegated to transfer of wealth represented as encrypted data. Copies of the entire blockchain are relayed among numerous nodes by various means, including but not limited to, internet, satellite, and radio.The decentralized nature of blockchain technology makes the system far less prone to total failure. Solar powered devices acting as nodes can provide a cost effective fail-safe, relaying all blockchain information to computers and mobile devices.

Blockchain tech can be applied to firefighting and emergency services in a number of ways that will improve logistical efficiency and operational coordination. Dispatchers could utilize semi automated blockchain based CAD, that will help 911 services obtain information as callers wait during high volume times. Pre-incident plans for local buildings could be uploaded on the blockchain, making it not only easier for the local fire department, but also for those with mutual aid agreements to know what they should expect when assisting in another jurisdiction. Private keys reserved for authorized personnel only, keeps sensitive information safe and secure. Sidechains available to local civilians could provide secure lines of communication between a fire department and community residents. Employee memos can be securely relayed to firefighters, and blockchain based paging systems could provide more detailed information to volunteers.

On scene, blockchain coupled with near field communication (NFC), could help automate breathing apparatus accountability. It could eventually provide unlimited communication channels when block size is no longer an issue and block time is successfully reduced. In cases of discrepancy, simply referring to data stored on the blockchain will help resolve many issues. Behind the scenes, inventory can be marked in and out of service, with full maintenance record of each piece of equipment stored on the fire departments blockchain. Accounting, payroll, and employee hour logs will become fully automated and human error resistant.

While none of these blockchain features are in place yet, because the technology is so new, all it takes is a few brave individuals willing to take a chance. Whether or not blockchain is up to the task of acting as a fire service lifeline, will be determined by the department who takes the forefront in testing and implementing it. One thing is clear, if this new technology can help save even one life, it's worth trying out.

Republished with permission from DCE Brief

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