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The Future of Firefighter Accountability

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Firefighter accountability is defined as “the system used to track the location of fire crews while operating on the emergency scene” (FireRescue1.com). Each fire department has a unique system, but Seattle Fire veteran Raul A. Angulo says in a FireRescue article that there is one easy way to tell whether or not you need to rethink yours:

“If you can’t tell me where every firefighter and company is on the fireground at any given time, you don’t have an accountability system – you have a roster.”

Angulo says that regardless of whether your accountability system is manual or computerized, it has to have:

  • Firefighter’s name and/or radio ID number
  • Unit or company
  • Assignment
  • Location on fireground

Captain Homer Robertson wrote in an issue of FireRescue that making an accountability system work is like being a vegetarian: “It’s a lifestyle that takes commitment and dedication.”

In today’s day and age of fast-paced technological advancement, there are many new technologies appearing all over the market such as GPS trackers and heartbeat sensors. It can be difficult to make the necessary commitment when things are changing so quickly, but these types of devices have the potential to redefine what it means to run an IC.

Mercer Island Fire Chief Chris Tubbs has an optimistic outlook for the future in this regard. In an interview, he said, “I see a day when a lot of the tracking information exists in a software environment and can be transferred seamlessly between multiple hardware devices. For example when a person comes out of a fire and goes to rehab, their information would already be available on medical tablets.”

Angulo supports technological advances that will improve firefighter safety, but he’s concerned that it will cause firefighters to rely too heavily on methods that are seen as fool-proof, when they are still subject to human error. “They’ll address the problem of firefighter accountability without ever understanding what accountability is.”

Angulo’s argument is one that many have made before – that technology should be treated as an aid, not as a substitution. Technology has played a huge role in improving firefighter accountability over the years. However new laws to ensure processes are being implemented, and IC’s are straying from the belief that they can account for everyone in their head.

The future, as it so often tends to do, will bring more high-tech devices, apps, and gadgets. Technology comes with the unfortunate burden of having to learn it and actually use it, but it is a burden that can’t be avoided. The key to the continual improvement of firefighter accountability rests in finding a balance between basic training and utilizing some of the amazing technology the world has to offer.

Fire departments may use different accountability systems, but all of them need a centralized command post to help make that system run as smoothly as possible. Bumperchute offers vehicle canopies that can be set up in just a few minutes and enable you establish an organized and efficient command post while keeping you and your equipment protected from the elements.

What accountability system do you use? We want to know! Let’s talk more and discuss if Bumperchute could be a good fit for your team to help your accountability system be the best it can be.

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