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Equipping and empowering tomorrow’s engineer

Technology can help solve challenges, bridge the generation gap and enhance safety

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Firefighters Extinguishing House Fire

Levaraging technology to control pump operations can lead to greater visibility and safety on the fireground.

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By Joshua Davis for FireRescue1 BrandFocus

As leaders in the fire service, our primary responsibility is to ensure the safety and effectiveness of our firefighters as they protect our communities. However, we are currently facing a challenge, as many seasoned veterans are retiring, and we are experiencing a shortage of recruits, leading to a lack of experience in the upper ranks and a gap in our staffing. To overcome this challenge, we must find innovative ways to support our experienced firefighters and encourage the younger generations to value promotional opportunities and the responsibilities bestowed upon them.

One of the primary challenges in confronting this issue is the conventional promotion track, as many firefighters hesitate to embrace officer positions. This hesitancy stems from their preference to remain on the front lines, as promotion to fire officer is frequently perceived as a departure from active duty toward higher administrative or managerial responsibility. This change may be interpreted as a loss of connection to the core mission of firefighting, which can discourage them from pursuing a promotion or, at the very least, dampen their motivation to succeed in the role. In most agencies, the progression from firefighter to officer necessitates promotion to pump operator or engineer. This practice is common and intended to ensure firefighters possess the requisite skills and experience to function effectively in the officer position.


The role of a pump operator is essential to the overall mission of the fire service. In addition to maintaining and inventorying the apparatus and getting crews safely to the scene, the role is invaluable during firefighting operations. The pump operator is responsible for ensuring the water supply is adequate and the fire attack crew’s lifeline is not interrupted.

Nonetheless, the position of pump operator is often perceived to be a transition away from fighting fire and toward a more technical or supervisory role. While this perception is accurate in many respects, it can challenge attracting qualified candidates to fill the subsequent ranks. Consequently, it creates a need for more qualified individuals to fill the pump operator position. To address this challenge, we need to devise innovative solutions that attract new firefighters and motivate and inspire experienced ones while safeguarding the health and safety of all involved.

One effective solution to motivate newer generations of firefighters and support and inspire seasoned veterans is leveraging technology. By implementing innovative and creative solutions, agencies can create a motivating and engaging environment for all their members. This can increase satisfaction, retention rates and productivity. Technology can help bridge the gap between the ranks by providing common ground and a platform for collaboration and communication. This can foster a more dynamic and productive atmosphere where everyone can contribute their unique skills and expertise and feel a sense of confidence in their position and responsibilities.

Demonstrating an agency’s commitment to keeping up with modern technologies can be a powerful means of attracting younger generations. The effective use of technology can foster an innovative and forward-thinking culture that promotes creativity, continuous learning and progressive development. This approach helps agencies attract and retain skilled staffing and enhances overall success.


One such form of technology is the SAM waterflow control system by IDEX Fire & Safety. The system is powered by state-of-the-art automation technology, offering unparalleled safety and control. With SAM, firefighters can perform their duties with greater confidence, knowing they have access to accurate, reliable data. This data is continuously updated in real time, allowing firefighters to respond quickly and effectively to their assigned tasks. The system enables firefighters to automate routine tasks, freeing up more opportunities to focus on other critical aspects of their roles, such as decision-making and problem-solving.

By automating routine tasks, SAM reduces the risk of human error, which can lead to critical mistakes. The system’s advanced features give firefighters unprecedented control, allowing them to monitor and simultaneously manage multiple fire-suppression pumping activities.

Imagine a scenario where a fire pump operator is providing water supply to multiple attack crews during a large-scale fire incident. The operator has deployed several attack lines and is transitioning from the tank to a hydrant supply source. However, the pump pressure suddenly drops during the transition due to unforeseen circumstances. Multiple attack crews are simultaneously calling the incident command to report pressure fluctuations, and the pump operator needs to act fast to prevent the situation from escalating. With SAM, the operator can rely on real-time monitoring and alerts to quickly identify and address the issue. SAM’s advanced sensors and algorithms can detect any changes in pressure and automatically adjust the pump’s settings to maintain a steady flow of water to the attack nozzles, allowing the operator to focus on communicating with the incident command or directly to the attack crews and making quick decisions. By automating routine tasks, the pump operator can conduct an accurate scene assessment, identify hazards, visualize fire behavior and rescue profile, and ensure overall crew safety.

Using technology like SAM not only enhances the capabilities of our pump operators but can also help attract recruits. The younger generation is accustomed to technology and more likely to be drawn to a profession that embraces innovation. By demonstrating a commitment to technological progress for the betterment of our firefighters, we can position ourselves as an attractive career option for the next generation.


However, it is essential to note that technology cannot replace the role of firefighters. Instead, it should complement their skills and expertise. Technology like SAM is designed to assist pump operators, not replace them. It allows them to focus on critical thinking and decision-making while allowing technology to handle routine tasks. This symbiotic relationship between humans and technology is the key to maximizing the potential of our overall mission.

Equipping and empowering tomorrow’s fire pump operator or engineer requires us to embrace the future. By leveraging technology, we can attract recruits, retain experienced firefighters and ensure the longevity of our staff.

Leaders in the fire service must find innovative ways to support experienced firefighters and encourage younger generations to pursue promotional opportunities. By embracing new technologies like SAM, agencies can create a more engaging and dynamic environment that attracts and retains skilled staffing while enhancing the overall professional experience.

For more information, visit IDEX Fire & Safety.

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About the author:

Joshua Davis is an assistant chief and fire marshal with a fire department in the Austin, Texas area.