What breakthrough outside the fire service stands to have the largest impact if we adopt it?

Not every meaningful change has to be built from scratch; here's what experts see as the best adaptable ideas for the fire service


Great advances in everything from technology, to science, to management practices are often built by adaptations of similar concepts.

And the fire service is expert at bringing tools and techniques into its fold and adapting them for our special purposes.

UAVs can assist in emergency management, search and rescue, pre-incident planning and other dangerous reconnaissance purposes. (AP Photo)
UAVs can assist in emergency management, search and rescue, pre-incident planning and other dangerous reconnaissance purposes. (AP Photo)

With that in mind, we asked members of our editorial advisory board to look outside the fire service for the next big thing we can use to improve firefighting and EMS delivery.









Billy Hayes

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, have become extremely popular with hobbyists and enthusiasts for recreational purposes and aerial photography. Lady Gaga even used them as a backdrop during her opening of the Super Bowl LI half-time show.

But more importantly, if our U.S. military can use them for surveillance and tactical purposes, why shouldn’t the fire and emergency services? It may seem unconventional, but it’s a technology that should be considered and embraced by emergency responders.

While there are legal and privacy issues about UAV use, that must be considered and sorted out. It can provide an incident commander with a different view of an emergency scene and the unseen hazards they may face.

Further, UAVs can assist in emergency management, search and rescue, pre-incident planning and other dangerous reconnaissance purposes. In 2007, Business Insider reported that scouting missions with UAVs could become a prominent new use case for drones in the military, especially because it could eliminate the need to place troops in dangerous and harmful situations.

For years, incident commanders have had a desire to have an overall view of an emergency scene, often relying on media helicopters for streamed footage.

  • What does the roof look like?
  • What is happening at the inaccessible side of the structure?
  • What does the damage surveillance look like from a natural disaster that is inaccessible?

Now, that option is available with UAVs that can cost from a few hundred dollars and upward depending on options and capabilities.

The introductory prices of thermal imaging cameras when first entering the fire and emergency services market were cost-prohibitive to many departments. However, this technology can provide critical information in versatile situations at a fraction of the cost a few years ago.

It will be interesting to see how this technology is embraced and used, and most importantly, how many civilian and emergency responder lives are saved.









Gary Ludwig

The fire service is the largest provider of EMS in the United States when you look at the number of transport ambulances and the number of first responder interactions for fire- and non-fire-based EMS transport systems. And since most fire departments are really nothing but an EMS agency that sometimes goes to a fire call, EMS is the vast majority of service we provide.

That is why the changes that we will experience in medicine in the future will also impact the fire service in a prominent way.

The Human Genome Project has and will change how we approach medicine and treatments in the future. The project of sequencing all 3 billion base pairs of genomes in the human body was completed in April 2003.  

Since then, major advances have been made in the field of biotechnology and drug development. That’s because it gave us a better understanding of how drugs can respond to different genetic markers.

I suspect in the future, firefighter and paramedics will be administering new and wonderful drugs that we do not even know exist yet. These drugs will run the gamut from new cardiac drugs, stroke management and even drugs designed to occlude internal bleeding for trauma victims until they can successfully reach an operating room.   

Another area where I see change coming is with driverless fire apparatus, including ambulances. The use of driverless systems is pushing forward fast and hard as everyone seems to be on a rapid pace to create driverless systems.  

This technology will one day impact the fire service. I don't think we're too far off from seeing both members of an ambulance working on a patient in the rear compartment while a computer drives the ambulance to the hospital. 

Join the discussion

Brand focus

Sponsored content
Why firefighters need to talk about PTSD and suicide

Why firefighters need to talk about PTSD and suicide

Firefighting is a tough job, and firefighters need to know it’s OK to talk about it

logo for print