Have You Seen These

Where’s Waldo?

You are the captain of Engine 3, assigned as a RIT crew standing by a rip snortin’ house fire.  You and your team were initially disappointed to hear the IC’s assignment, knowing full well you would have been first- in to the fire if it wasn’t for the false alarm call on the other side of your first in territory twenty minutes ago.  But, being the professionals you are, you busted your butts in gathering your stuff, sizing up all four sides of the house, throwing ladders to the second floor for emergency egress, and monitoring fire conditions.

“This is a “sh$%ty fire” you think to yourself while walking the perimeter.  Seeing two lines going in through the front door, you note the oily black cotton balls of smoke rolling out overhead and seemingly out of every other orifice of the 1930’s style craftsman home.  On your way back to your crew, you pass the IC and ask; “Are we winning or losing chief?” The chief gives a non-committal answer, saying the smoke conditions have worsened and is thinking of pulling the crews and going defensive.  “We had an initial report of a person possibly trapped, but the PD just told me everyone got out.  I’m giving them 30 seconds and if I don’t see steam, we’re pulling them out.  Be ready Cap!” he stated ominously.

 As you head to your crew you hear the captain on the initial attack line over your radio; “22nd Street Command from Engine 1, we have high heat, zero visibility on the first floor, suspect this is a basement fire, we are backing out.”  You reflect back on your size up.  Where are the daylight windows?  Why is no smoke coming from the perimeter at ground level?  How did I miss it?

Suddenly, you hear and feel a “WHOMP”, and smoke blows out through the front door and living room windows, followed by a sheet of flame and three firefighters rolling down the front steps.

Command immediately calls “Emergency Traffic! Interior crews, abandon the building now!”  At the same time, your RIT team bounds to the front to check on the smoking hot firefighters piled at their feet in the front yard.  “Whoa, that was close” you hear someone say.  But, suddenly the Engine 1 captain notes;  “Hey, where’s Patterson?”  Without hesitation, he calls the IC to report a missing firefighter, who immediately begins calling for the missing firefighter without response.  Engine 1 from 22nd Command, find the missing firefighter…”

You tell your crew to stretch another line to the front door and standby, as you run around the perimeter performing another size up.  But, this time you activate a button on the side of your SCBA face piece, thinking to yourself he must have fallen into the basement. A bright green blinking directional arrow pops up in your heads up display along with the symbol +8.  Following the arrow takes you to the B side of the house. Without hesitation you tell your crew to take the line up the ladder they had previously thrown.  Sure enough, as they begin to ascend the ladder they see a Halligan tool and firefighter flashlight below the open window, approximately 8’ above you.  The downed firefighter is kneeling next to the window, with his mask off and obviously disoriented.  Your team, along with several others, quickly pulls him out through the window to safety. The firefighter is found and rescued within five minutes.

Simplistic scenario.  Yep. Far fetched?  Right now, yes.  Should it be? Hell No!  This scenario was inspired by two articles; one  released today by the Computer Center for Visually Impaired People (CCVIP).  They are studying the best ways to leverage existing mobile data devices to help those who can’t see as they navigate.  The thing I like best about their approach is using existing commercial technologies to make it happen.

The second article is the innovative way Apple is using Bluetooth technology, called iBeacon to deliver targeted marketing messages depending on their location within a store.  I predict this ‘micro-marketing’ will become the norm in the next couple of years.

Still another widely available location tracking program, Glympse is a free app that people use to keep track of each other (great for tracking your kids).  Heck, we even have a free app that alerts you when someone nearby is in cardiac arrest and the location of the closest defibrillator.

I know there are many other programs out there as well.  Heck, the fire service has been testing Geo-location systems for over a decade.  Yet, we continue to read about the firefighter’s deadly version of “Where’s Waldo?”  The fire service and related equipment and communication manufacturers need to get moving, and git ‘er done, or get out of the way and let Apple do it for them.  No doubt, the devices would look really cool too.

About chiefb2

Retired fire chief ,Type 3 AHIMT IC, PIO, Fire service consultant. Social media emergency management disciple (no, I'm not a "guru"). Crisis communications consultant. Father and Grandpa with an open wallet.