Firefighters have one highly visible job: fighting fires. But there is a lot more that happens before the fire engines, fire trucks, and other emergency personnel even arrive on the scene. Thanks to advances in technology such as stricter fire codes, fireproof building materials, and installation of protective devices like smoke alarms, answering the call for structure fires have diminished somewhat. The number of fires responded to by municipal fire departments in 2013 — about 1.2 million — is roughly a third of the figure from 1977, when the National Fire Protection Association started keeping track 3.3 million. But there is so much more to the fire service than just fighting fires.
Let’s take a look at four unrecognized topics for a “behind the scenes” look at what else goes on at the fire station on a daily basis.
Staying in Shape
Firefighting is one of the most physically demanding and dangerous of all civilian occupations. To even get hired on in a department, it’s standard that candidates have to pass a grueling physical fitness test before also being considered.
Once you pass your physical fitness assessment and get into the fire academy, the work of staying in shape doesn’t end there. A firefighter’s Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, which consists of their helmet, hood, pants, coat, gloves, boots and air pack, weighs around 50 lbs. Add in extra equipment like an ax, fire extinguisher, Halligan tool, radios, thermal imaging camera, etc. and you could be carrying almost 100 lbs. To move that much extra equipment, being physically fit and aware of your health is critical.
Consider the demands of the job like rescuing victims, raising ladders, handling charged hose lines, ventilating roofs, and forcing entry with heavy tools – and all of that has to be done with that extra weight from their PPE and additional equipment.
To help crews stay fit, many fire stations have some sort of exercise equipment onsite. It’s not uncommon to see fire personnel walking or running on a treadmill, lifting weights or riding a stationary bike. By incorporating a mix of strength training, stretching/flexibility, and aerobic exercise, firefighters are seeing benefits such as increased resting metabolism, strengthened bones, enhanced lean muscle mass, reduced high blood pressure, favorable changes in high-density lipid level (good cholesterol), and reduced risk of osteoporosis.
Stations need to ensure that their exercise equipment is adequately maintained and in good, safe working condition. Mis-managed or unmaintained equipment can hurt users if something goes wrong. If crews have access to proper equipment, they will use it. If it’s old, broken down or in bad condition, it will continue to sit untouched, and it’s not contributing to the health and wellness of the team.
Crews can keep their equipment in excellent working condition and usable by all shifts by:
- Keeping an accurate record of what hardware you have.
- Notating when it was added to the station.
- Keeping up with daily maintenance of equipment and making immediate repairs when needed
The Administrative Side and Asset Tracking
Fighting fires and rescuing people isn’t all that goes on at the firehouse. There are plenty of administrative tasks that play an essential role in ensuring that our public safety officers are ready to roll at any given moment.
Most importantly is the tracking and management of the station’s assets and fire safety equipment. The assets available to fire departments, relief organizations or EMS can mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations. Complete knowledge about these assets—from where they are to the condition they’re in—is vital.
Utilizing asset tracking software is helping departments of all sizes come up with a cost-effective solution that allows personnel to customize and define information fields that are pertinent to their particular work. Data can be secured with access parameters and limited to areas such as storage rooms, vehicles, fire stations, ambulances, clinics, shelters, and the like.
The assets available to fire departments, relief organizations or EMS can mean the difference between life and death in emergency situations.
Crews can accurately maintain, manage and preserve medical stock and supplies, which gives them an accurate view of what they have or what needs to be ordered and re-stocked. Many systems centralize recorded data and can be viewed across the entire department. The benefits of asset tracking include:
- Having instant access and real-time information on what each station has
- Elimination of duplicated data entry errors between firefighters on each shift.
- Run advanced reports to quickly determine which products are needed at each fire station, in an ambulance, on a fire apparatus, etc.
The technology that goes into running a modern fire station is continuously evolving. Different software programs contribute to the maintenance and upkeep of equipment and critical systems. Fire tracking software can help everyone on the team do the job a little faster. Station officers can use it to increase the efficiency of their crew by making sure they know where to find their gear when the alarm bells ring. Dispatchers will know how equipped each team is, which will help them make quick decisions on which crews to send into each situation.
First responders and EMS should not have to spend a second longer than necessary looking for the equipment necessary for each situation they encounter.
Such software helps fire crews and EMS teams keep track of the following information:
- out-of-service equipment
- expiration dates of medication and perishable supplies
- status of fire engines
- equipment maintenance details
- dates equipment when in/out of service and when it is due for maintenance, upgrades or replacement
Many of today’s fire station asset tracking software offerings include barcode scanning, which uses asset tags to track all equipment by location and status of use. Once scanned, data on any asset can be stored in one central location and viewed by any allocated user. This is especially helpful when it comes time to take inventory of equipment on a particular apparatus or running an audit on the medical supplies in-house or on an ambulance. The time saved doing inventory can be used for other administrative duties that keep each crew running smoothly.
Firefighters are always training and bettering their technique for any type of scenario that might arise. Firefighters must be able to think critically and clearly and solve problems quickly, under extreme stress. There are numerous types of training activities that fire personnel participate in, such as:
- Tank extinguishing techniques
- Mass casualty drills
- Accident extraction
- Water rescues
- Brush/grass fires
- Structure collapses
- Hose lays/stretching
- SCBA safety
- High-rise building fires/rescues
- House fires and rescues
Approved, measured and used as standards throughout the departments, training activities such as these are the backbone of the competency and skill needed by every member of the fire service. Ensuring that the crews have the right equipment whether in training mode or for a real life-saving scenario is essential. They need to know what equipment is available and how to use it properly at any given time. Lives depend on it.
Asset Panda’s fire department and EMS asset tracking helps first responders know where their assets are located and what condition they are in. The software provides immediate access to information about their available medication, medical equipment, defibrillators, vehicles, fire gear, and even power tools. Having this information available at the tip of your fingers can help you get what you need for each situation.
For more information about how Asset Panda can make an impact on your fire department and to schedule a free 14-day trial, visit www.assetpanda.com.
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