The fire service we know of today will not be the same in the coming years. I see a technology-based fire service with an emphasis on fire prevention, EMS, alternative funding for service and response to terrorism events. Technology in the fire service is in its infancy; automatic vehicle locators, mobile data terminals, and IPads will seem like child’s play in the future. Technology discovered by NASA, such as unmanned vehicles and drones with infrared capabilities that can transmit to a base station, will become commonplace in our future. The ability for responding companies to log into traffic cameras and other such technology to get an accurate picture of the incident will reduce needless responses and allow the responder to get a picture of what they might be dealing with upon arrival. This will greatly increase the responder’s situational awareness of the incident.
Mandatory fire sprinkler systems in new buildings is an example of the future of fire prevention programs. Programs like this need to explored and adopted in the future. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By requiring home based sprinkler systems (as described in NFPA 13R) we can limit the fire growth and dramatically change the fire growth tables. Along with this effort there should be mandatory fire safety/ prevention programs in our schools. Instructing the youth our nation in fire prevention activities will also reduce the occurrences of fires. This was explained in the groundbreaking book “America Burning” (1973) and “America Burning Revisited” (1987) where fire prevention programs to review injuries and death were examined. One of the many outcomes was the practice of architects and engineers including fire safety in the design of buildings with pre-fire systems and early notification systems.
Understanding that the demand for EMS service will continue to increase, it will come with the changes to our healthcare system. These changes will include reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies which may be less. We need to develop programs for high risk populations; injury prevention programs and targeted interventions can reduce the amount of emergency responses for our EMS system.
Alternative funding for the fire service is going to have to be a priority in the future. Whether it is from unfunded mandates like NFPA 1710 or the diminishing valuation of homes etc, we need to explore out-of-the-box funding sources. Some examples are the SAFER Act and the FIRE Act (both of which we will continue to work with the politicians and the Congressional Fire Service Caucasus for continued funding). Additionally, we need to consider user fees, plan review fees, and working with insurance companies for funding, among additional aspects.
Finally, we must prepare our responders and community for the potential event of a terrorist act. So far we have been lucky and not have had the amount of terrorism that has plagued Great Britain, Nigeria, and other foreign countries. But eventually there may be more attacks on our homeland. By working with Homeland Security, FEMA, and other organizations, by following the information shared which is researched by Fusion Centers we can stay abreast of trends and threats. Additionally, we need to educate our community of the threats and the appropriate actions they can take to protect themselves until help arrives.