Technology and Recon

Technology and Recon

There is a great deal of technology out there that can help us do the job better and safer.  We have computer databases that can identify at the push of a button so many things about a building, it’s almost like we live there.  These can show pictures and also give building information that can  assist us tremendously in our ability to not only identify areas that are not seen from the A  side of the building, but be a source for data about the building that can aid us in fighting a fire there.  Such data as sprinkler controls and coverage and utility shut-offs as well as locations of disabled occupants enhance our efficiency on the fireground.  Not all departments have the ability to provide this at-the-fingertips database for their companies on scene.

Another piece of technology is the Google Earth app.  It is a more sophisticated and zooms us right down to the street where we can see an all-sides view of both the building and exposures.  This costs money and requires an on-scene computer system.  This is still not reality for many departments.

The other new thing is the drone.  This is a really cool piece of technology, but it not only costs a lot but requires a person dedicated to operate it at the fire scene.  In the staffing-starved departments of New Jersey, this is fantasy.  It also comes with some drawbacks:  at any given fire, maybe the first, the drone may either get to close to the fire building and burn up or get “disoriented” in the smoke and smack into the building’s walls.  It is also affected by hose streams, so again, in a heavy smoke condition, it can be hit by an outside stream.  Any of the aforementioned are likely to drop it out of the sky like it was hit by a surface-to-air missile.  I think this is great technology, but we might not be ready for this yet.

One totally under-utilized cheap pieces of technology that provides a great overhead shot of the building and surroundings and can allow a zoom-in feature is one that everyone with a smart phone has at their fingertips.  It is the app that comes with the phone, Google maps.  All you have to do is punch in the address and the building comes right up.  This app even better with an I-pad or Tuff Book because the screen is bigger.  This addition to the on-scene equipment does not cost much, maybe a few hundred dollars.  It is very effective.  You can zoom in and see such things as exposures, shafts, roof issues, and unknown exposure issues.  You might even be able to identify areas on adjacent streets where master streams might be effectively used.  Let’s look at a few pictures



This picture shows not only shafts between the buildings (the dark areas on the left and right of the long building in the center), but also reveals a building behind a building (the white roof to the upper right of the tree) that could create a huge concern should fire issue from any of the buildings fronting on the street at the top left of the photo.  Not knowing this can cause some major catch-up issues.


This row house shows small shafts (the two dark “slot-looking areas between the buildings) that not only could spread fire, but like all shafts, can cause a firefighter fall concern.  Knowing about this before you go on this roof enhances firefighter safety and strategic planning.


This photo shows the location of skylights on the peaked roof in the center.  It also shows that the flat roof to the right is covered with solar panels.  This is not visible from the street.  There is virtually no room to operate on this roof.  It is best to have this info before the troops go to the roof.



Finally, as an example of technology-enhanced strategic planning, we had a major fire in the buildings on the street at the top right on a really cold night (the short and long building top the extreme right) .  The Command Post was located in front of those buildings. Recon on foot revealed the existence of a parking lot (where all the cars are in the pic) on the adjacent block where a Telesqurt  could be advantageous to both exposure protection and for fire extinguishment at the rear.  There were no cars in the lot that night.  This is what eventually happened, but if I had this image that night, I could have positioned that rig there and provided the water supply for it much sooner.  See pic below.

1-5  (Photo by Ron Jeffers)

Don’t overlook this “instant” technology on your fireground.  It will make your fireground safer and more easily managed.  Just make sure you keep the phone charged and out of the way of the water! A dead and/or wet phone or tablet helps no one.


This was my first attempt at the blog by myself.  Hope it doesn’t suck!!


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