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Why Technology Improves Your Interoperability and Unified Command

Updated: Oct 17, 2023

Applying the right technology has become an essential part of optimizing operations across various industries, including public safety. For fire departments, embracing these digital tools offers numerous benefits, particularly when it comes to enhancing interoperability and achieving a unified command structure. We have possibly seen the most significant public safety innovations when it comes to communication. In the past, many departments were unable to communicate with mutual-aid jurisdictions or share information back and forth between fire, police, and EMS.


However, recent technological innovations have prompted big changes when it comes to interoperability. Public safety agencies increasingly encounter situations where they need the ability to relay information and create a unified response. These incidents include active shooter scenarios, mass casualty incidents, natural disasters, and other large-scale emergencies.


One way that departments can maintain unified command, create a common operating picture, and improve interoperability is through incident command software. Using tablets rather than radios, incident command (IC) can share assignments and attack strategies with everyone at the scene in real time. For instance, if a fire department is working with a police department on a natural disaster like wildfires, all officers with the tablet have the same information, even if they’re in a staging area or on different radio channels. In this blog, we will explore the significant advantages of integrating technology into fire departments for unified command.


Boosting Interoperability Through Advanced Communication Systems

A publication from the International Public Safety Association notes that “The ability to quickly and accurately obtain situational awareness and assess the scope of a major incident is imperative to an effective emergency response. Optimizing public and first-responder safety, prioritizing response strategies and saving the lives of those who are injured all hinge upon the rapid establishment of unified command and effective interoperability between responding agencies.”

Effective communication lies at the heart of successful firefighting operations. In emergency situations, every second counts, and seamless coordination among different agencies is crucial. Communication difficulties are consistently identified as a key factor in line-of-duty death reports by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). By integrating communication systems and equipment with incident command solutions, fire departments can significantly enhance their interoperability. This connectivity enables seamless information exchange between multiple entities involved in an incident response.


Advanced technologies, such as radio over IP (RoIP) and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems, enable real-time communication, allowing firefighters, dispatchers, and incident commanders to share critical information promptly. For example, Adashi C&C’s integration with L3Harris™ allows Incident Commanders to perform Personnel Accountability Reports (PAR) with any P25 radio using voice calls or utilize more efficient PAR messaging with L3Harris™ radios. The equipment can automatically provide Incident Commanders with critical information such as battery or SCBA levels falling below a certain threshold. This improved interoperability leads to better coordination and ultimately, more efficient, and safer incident management.


Streamlining Data Management and Information Sharing

Fire departments deal with vast amounts of data and information, ranging from incident reports and personnel records to building blueprints and hazardous material details. Manually handling and sharing this data can be time-consuming and prone to errors. By implementing robust technology solutions, fire departments can streamline data management processes, ensuring accurate and secure information storage. Cloud-based platforms, for instance, allow real-time access to critical data, enabling firefighters and command staff to make informed decisions swiftly.


Leveraging IoT and Sensor Technologies for Enhanced Situational Awareness

In firefighting, situational awareness, including monitoring firefighter location, plays a pivotal role in mitigating risks and executing successful operations. Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor technologies, fire departments can now gather real-time data on various aspects, such as temperature, air quality, and structural integrity. Smart sensors installed in buildings can detect fire outbreaks and trigger automatic alerts, minimizing response times and potentially preventing major disasters.

Additionally, wearable technologies and integrated equipment provide instant updates on firefighters' conditions, ensuring their well-being during high-risk operations. For example, Adashi C&C software makes effective use of the telemetry data for air management from the 3M™ Scott™ SCBA to provide fire incident commanders intuitive and enhanced incident management, accountability, and firefighter-monitoring capabilities. By harnessing these technological advancements, fire departments can optimize situational awareness, enhancing safety measures, and overall incident management.


Enhancing Command and Control with Integrated Systems

Unified command is critical in effectively managing complex emergency situations. The International Public Safety Association defines it as “an incident management practice with critical components and measurable key performance indicators of success.” Integrated systems help departments establish a centralized command structure that facilitates efficient decision-making and resource allocation. Advanced incident management software platforms enable real-time collaboration among incident commanders, field personnel, and supporting agencies. These systems provide a comprehensive overview of the incident, allowing for prompt assessment and effective deployment of resources. By adopting such integrated systems, fire departments can optimize their command-and-control operations, ensuring a cohesive and coordinated response that maximizes efficiency and effectiveness.

Summary

As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, fire departments must seize the opportunities it presents to enhance their operational capabilities. These advancements empower firefighters and incident commanders with the tools and information they need to respond swiftly and effectively to emergencies. These applications, such as Adashi C&C, offer ways to streamline communication, improve accountability, and increase efficiency during an incident to ultimately save more lives. Ultimately, by harnessing the power of technology, fire departments can continue to refine their unified command structure to save more lives and protect communities with greater efficiency and precision.

Access the overview of the Adashi platform to learn how it supports an intelligent coordinated incident response.

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