Reporting from the field saves fire departments time and money

When lawsuits begin against departments for negligence or misconduct, first-hand empirical evidence from the scene can save a firefighter's career, as well as department time and taxpayer money

By Michael Cayes
Mooring Tech, Inc.

This article is provided by Mooring Tech, Inc. and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of FireRescue1.

A simple query of the words ‘fire department sued’ yields approximately 1.1 million results on Google. Though police are facing the greatest amount of criticism for their tactics and behavior lately, fire departments around the country are, pardon the pun, feeling the heat of the public’s demand for greater transparency about behavior in the field.

In reality, firefighters are not just public servants who fight fires. They are often called upon to respond to medical emergencies if they are the closest available responders, and they frequently step in to perform search and rescue operations when people go missing. So many times, when firefighters arrive at the scene of a call, they are walking into a high-stress situation with people who are actively experiencing grief and loss and all of the emotions attached to that. Some people handle it well. Some do not. In the aftermath, when lawsuits begin against departments for negligence or misconduct, first-hand empirical evidence from the scene can save a firefighter’s career, as well as department time and taxpayer money.

It seems likely that fire departments, like police, are moving towards methods of digital reporting. Rugged tablets mounted in trucks can serve for mapping, communication with other teams in the field, and compiling reports. Tablets like the Panasonic ToughPad have compatible stylus pens and Bluetooth keyboards that make typing or writing up reports simple. The ToughPads also come with a camera and built-in microphone for taking photos and video statements.

Another potential way to provide documentation is through the use of body cameras. There are several in development, many of them created by firefighters. These cameras are hands-free, an important consideration in the field and are typically mounted on top of the uniform helmet or attached to a uniform lapel. One of these, the Oncall camera, is a veritable juggernaut with 32 GB of internal memory, 8-hour battery life, and a heat testing rating up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Oncall uploads recorded video to a cloud server, where one can access video through an app or an in-vehicle tablet like the ToughPad. The Oncall camera starts at $399, and MooringTech sells the entire line of ToughPads retailing from $1,195-$2,995. It seems steep, but the durability of these products is tested across a range of harsh conditions.

As mentioned above, this equipment cost is offset by the amount of money saved on secondary investigations. These products enable firefighters to document every aspect of their time on a call. The steps they took to ensure their job was done correctly, things they were unable to do because of procedure or safety concerns, their interactions with people on the scene. Events are recorded while they are fresh, and if issues with protocol or behavior arise down the road, there is physical evidence available that can help bring resolution more quickly.

Misconduct is dealt with faster, and unfounded cases waste less time, to the benefit of fire departments and their communities.

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