Tracking technology can be a real game changer

There are so many field applications for a robust firefighter tracking system


Editor’s Note:

Editor's note: As the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, researchers are working to perfect technology that tracks first responders. Chief Adam K. Thiel gives his thoughts on how the new technology could help below.

For several years I've been following research on firefighter location technology.

Interior structural firefighting presents a complex environment in which to make such a system work and I'm very pleased to see the excellent progress described in this story.

There are so many field applications for a robust firefighter tracking system.

I have to admit that, as a firefighter and company officer, I wasn't always where I said I was on the fireground. I always had a good reason, but in many cases the personnel accountability board/sheet wasn't accurate.

Either the incident commander couldn't keep up with status reports from multiple units, communications were slow, or we were simply freelancing. (Again, with "good" reasons, but that didn't make it right.)

As an IC, and now a fire chief, it's very frustrating when you're unable to accurately identify the location of the units operating (or staging) at an incident.

Beyond the obvious safety benefits, the ability to know exactly who's doing what, when, and where, is a real game changer for upping the effectiveness of interior structural firefighting.

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel — FireRescue1's editorial advisor — is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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