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5 ways the iPhone changed fire, EMS

Here's an overview on how the iPhone changed the course for fire and EMS departments


Ten years ago, Apple CEO Steve Jobs stepped out in his infamous black turtleneck and jeans in front of an eager audience for his now-legendary keynote address.

The release of the first-ever iPhone was "revolutionary." Cellphone users all around the world dumped their Motorola RAZR flip phones for the pinch-and-zoom spectacular. Other mobile phone companies rolled out smartphones and the personal tech arms race was off and running.

And just how the iPhone changed "Average Joe" users' everyday lives, it also changed how fire and EMS departments operate. A lot has changed in 10 years — iOS updates, competing operating systems and technologies, bigger screens, better cameras, apps to make calculating dosages and scheduling easier, and, most of all, it has allowed firefighters and EMS providers to have critical and potentially lifesaving information at their fingertips.

The release of the first-ever iPhone was "revolutionary." (Courtesy photo)
The release of the first-ever iPhone was "revolutionary." (Courtesy photo)

Here's an overview on how the iPhone changed the course for fire and EMS departments.

1. Apps for first responders

There most definitely is an app for everything these days. Need a way to track schedules, learn more about rescue knots or have a ready-to-go resource to deal with hazmat incidents? Or what about an IV drip rate calculator and timer or an easy way to ensure compressions are being performed at the proper rate? The iPhone made all of these apps — and many more — easy to download and pull up at a moment's notice.

Is there a fire or EMS-specific app you can't live without? Let us know in the comments.

2. Search and rescue operations

There's many simple, yet creative, ways you can use your iPhone during rescue operations.

When a 2-year-old Chinese boy fell down a 40-foot well, firefighters had difficulty attaching a rescue harness. Instead of trying to hoist the boy up blindly, they attached a piece of rope around an iPhone and slid it down to film the position of the boy. The boy was rescued and OK.

3. Fire, EMS camera usage

In Santa Barbara, Calif., firefighters are using their iPhone cameras — with the help of an attached infrared device — to see up to 100 yards in the dark. Another creative way to use an iPhone's camera comes out of Hong Kong, where researches used the cellphone's camera and an app to identify irregular heartbeats by looking at a person's face.

And of course not all changes are for the better — the iPhone has given us the selfie. Some bad selfies turn out good, as in the case of the arsonist who couldn’t resist capturing the moment. And while not all selfies are illegal, some, like this Londoner posing with an MVA, are simply done in bad taste. Of course, firefighters are not above making bad selfie decisions while on-duty. Not all selfies are bad, as this firefighter proved when he sent a quick shot to his family to let them know he was OK.

4. Mapping

When you're en route to a fire scene or medical call, there's plenty of technology in your rig that will get you there via the best direction. But what if you're called to a remote location and have to walk to find your victim? iPhone Maps, Google Earth and other app mapping technology allows users to choose drive, walk, transit or ride. If you need to hop out of your rig, but still need your location on-hand, your trusty iPhone may come in handy yet again.

5. Meal recipes

Are you the best cook at your fire or EMS station? Chances are, the rookie probably needs some help in the recipe department. Because, let's be honest, fast-food is quick and convenient, but it gets old pretty fast. Most departments frown upon crews using their phones while eating at the kitchen table. However, opening up a Pinterest recipe or a colleague's great-grandmother's chicken and dumpling recipe online fills not only the crews' stomachs but also encourages camaraderie. 

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