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Technology: 4 under-used firefighting tools

Not fully using the technology available can compromise the fire attack and firefighter safety

One area that we find ourselves becoming handicapped is with the use of technology. The fire service has evolved over the years with the use of technology and we find technology in every facet of the service. Our SCBA is heavily equipped with new technology, as is our fire apparatus, structural firefighting gear, as well as some hand tools.

Technology can be a good thing; it can also be a bad thing depending on you who ask. For the most part, it is used to increase the safety of every firefighter on the fireground and is viewed as being a good thing.

Although we have much technology at our disposal, we seem to ignore it and not use it to our advantage. This is where we have the dominos lining up and start to fall in rapid succession leading us to a bigger problem.

The technology added our hand tools or small equipment makes them readily available for use at a moment’s notice. The benefit of using them makes our job easier and makes us more efficient.

Here are four examples of beneficial technology that is not always used.

Thermal imaging camera
This is perhaps the most technologically advanced tool in our arsenal. The evolution of the TIC has seen it go from a bulky, heavy cumbersome piece of equipment to a lightweight, portable unit that can be handheld, helmet-mounted or SCBA-integrated. The price has also come down over the years, allowing more fire departments to purchase one.

The TIC is one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment that seems to be left behind on the apparatus. The TIC was known as the tool that was grabbed for overhaul purposes only. But now with technology, it can be used for our offensive attacks, searches, as well as other applications.

Four-gas monitor
Most every fire apparatus has a four-gas monitor on it for the usual carbon monoxide call. It seems that this is the only time it is used; but it can be used for much more than just carbon monoxide calls. The newer monitors are compact and lightweight, allowing it to be carried or tethered to a firefighter for constant monitoring of any fireground scenario.

Portable radio
The portable radio is a tool that has also evolved over the years. It is a vital lifeline for the firefighter with accountability purposes, communication purposes and also information dissemination purposes. Every firefighter should be equipped with a portable radio for her safety and well-being.

Sadly, we still do not have this scenario playing out across the nation. The radio is also a tool that is not always used to its full advantage. This is due to a lack of understanding and knowledge of how the radio works and what it can do.

Heat gun
The heat gun is not a popular tool, but is serves a useful purpose for overhaul operations as well as investigation purposes. Working alone or in tandem with the TIC, the heat gun can pinpoint heat sources and verify what may be present.

Take a look at your fire station, apparatus and equipment to see what technology has been added for your benefit and use it for your advantage. Doing so will eliminate some of the dominos and alleviate being handicapped.

Mark van der Feyst has been in the fire service since 1998, currently serving as a firefighter with the Fort Gratiot Fire Department in Michigan. He is an international instructor teaching in Canada, the United States and India. He graduated from Seneca College of Applied and Technologies as a fire protection engineering technologist, and received his bachelor’s degree in fire and life safety studies from the Justice Institute of British Columbia and his master’s degree in safety, security and emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University. van der Feyst is the lead author of the book “Residential Fire Rescue” and “The Tactical Firefighter.” Connect with van der Feyst via email.