For many years, building and scene data has been viewed as one of the most important factors in mitigating the risk to first responders and citizens during an active incident. Access to this data has been a problem since its importance was recognized. The solution? Go out and “pre-plan” - that is, collect critical data on commercial structures and somehow ensure that data finds its way to CAD so when crews are dispatched, this critical, live saving information is available and accessible.
But a revolution is coming. The concept of pre-incident planning is changing forever. Here are 4 ways how:
This is absurdly simple yet somehow for years has been overlooked. Most firefighter injuries and deaths occur when responding to incidents involving residential structures. But during an active incident, why don’t we have the critical data on these structures that would aid our response? Why don’t we know the property has been vacant for months and the foundation is collapsing? Why aren't we aware of the solar panels on the roof or the lightweight construction on the floor above a full basement? The answer is that data sharing and accessibility hasn’t been good enough to get this information into your hands. But with the push towards open data and data collaboration initiatives, the ability to size-up a residential structure with one click before arriving at the scene will become standard.
Pre-Incident data finds its way into the form of site plans and CAD drawings and focuses on critical fire suppression related units such as the FDC, Knox Box, FACP, Standpipe HV locations etc. This is some of the most pertinent information required during various stages of a response. But it's only a subset of the valuable data that will make up the entire picture. Property, Permit, Inspection and Violation data coming from your local assessor, building department and/or fire prevention are becoming more important pieces of the puzzle and proving to be incredibly valuable during a response. Post incident investigations have shown time and time again that Permit and Violation data in the hands of first responders and incident command, could have resulted in better outcomes. If, of course, the crews had been privy to the information in a consumable format. Which brings us to…
Putting pre-plan and other layers on a map is not enough. Creating incredibly complex CAD drawings for every commercial structure in the form of a PDF and geo-coding these PDFs to a map is again, a partial solution to adequately arming your team with the data they need to make smarter and safer decisions. Critical data needs to be consumable. Data needs to be systemized and structured in a format that can be consumed in seconds. Based on the viewer’s role, the incident and the building type, this system needs to be able to tell you what data is critical and what to focus on. Over the next few years, technology will play a greater role in helping refine the “story” of a structure and scene to first responders and incident command.
To expect the fire service alone to be prepared for every call by collecting critical scene and building data beforehand is not practical. There just aren’t enough resources and time to devote to such an incredibly arduous task. Maintaining this data becomes an even more challenging hurdle and leads to the inevitable downfall of pre-incident planning for many departments, especially volunteer. However, data is becoming more open and accessible, and with technologies for automatically collecting and sharing data across municipal agencies, public safety departments, the community and commercial data aggregators such as google, we are likely to see a massive decrease in the amount of data that needs to be collected by the Fire Service. Rather, you will look to data collected by these other parties to provide context when making critical live saving decisions.
Check out this video to learn more about how these changes are becoming a reality right now through technology innovation: