The use of technological innovation has always been a big part of a firefighter’s arsenal of tools. From the infrared-based heat sensors to mobile devices, technology greatly improves a firefighter’s ability to both do their job effectively as well as improving their safety on the job.
Firefighting has traditionally been an industry that values rigid and reliable practices, but the sector also values innovation and has been embracing new technologies to help improve the safety, efficiency and decision-making of firefighters on the job. What’s more, sweeping cuts to fire and rescue services mean that any budget allocation for technology innovation has to be cutting-edge, mission critical and, most importantly, sustainable. This naturally adds more emphasis on the need for fire departments to utilise the right tech.
Whilst the majority of technical issues or mishaps with workforce tech devices in non-emergency sectors may be viewed as a hindrance or a setback, the same can simply not be applied to emergency services. Issues with operational devices that fire-service personnel rely on can be hugely catastrophic and lead to loss of life.
Tech devices are life-critical in firefighting
A recent enterprise mobility survey found that mobile device failures caused significant problems for users with just over half (51%) of workers polled experiencing at least one mobile device issue per month that hinders their ability to do their job. In the fire services, any mobile device issues by way of battery failure or software malfunction can unfortunately cost the lives of both the public and the firefighters. For instance, mobile devices are critical for communication amongst firefighters at the scene of an emergency as well as the control/command rooms.
These mobile communication systems are often used to relay critical information from one user to another – a major part of many firefighting operations. Critical information such as risk, strategies and procedures are paramount and can often be the difference between life and death. Therefore, a lack of or the wrong information can be catastrophic.
This also applies to the location tracking of each and every team member. Being able to quickly locate and aid firefighters in need of assistance can be the key to saving lives. In this instance, their mobile devices should be discoverable and trackable in order to locate them efficiently and swiftly.
Device health tracking could be key to saving lives
Mobile devices such as laptops, tablets and handhelds are mission-critical for communication and personnel location tracking in firefighting, which is why there needs to be a great impetus on keeping these devices fully functional and operational at all times. Some devices have alerting systems that notify users of existing issues that need to be resolved. However, these device alerts are designed to prevent users from using faulty or damaged tools only and are often non-specific in nature when it comes to device intel.
A key step to ensuring that devices are running at full capacity at all times is through real-time mobile device health monitoring. Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) is an example of a fire services department that relies on real-time mobile device monitoring to monitor and analyse the performance data of their mobile devices. This includes battery life, signal strength and network performance. DWFR discovered early on that there was a need for a tool that was capable of monitoring their fleet of mobile devices and alerting the IT teams to any potential issues that could affect the firefighters’ access to vital and life-saving information.
This method of monitoring the health of individual Android and Windows devices enables IT personnel at designated control panels to have access to information regarding battery health and the software status of key devices. This in turn allows them to pre-empt any potential device faults or battery failures. Real-time device monitoring can help the fire department to take a proactive approach in identifying potential device issues and take action effectively and efficiently before they cause any problems in emergency events. It also limits the cost of repairs or battery replacements, and eliminates unnecessary device replacements and untimely device malfunctions.
Device health may be key to sustainability within the industry
As with many other government services, the fire and rescue services have had to endure government cutbacks in funding, which will mean that fire and rescue departments will have to scale back their outgoings due to the decrease in the budget available. This will without a doubt increase the pressure on the fire services to do their job effectively and safely as they will likely see decreases in staff sizes, fire engines and service capacity. Technological innovation will certainly be affected by these cuts, which means that fire and rescue departments will have to be even more careful with regards to the unnecessary and premature replacement of operational tech such as mobile devices.
This is another issue that device health monitoring could neutralise. For instance, when organisations want to deploy new work devices, they often have to benchmark their allocated budgets against the total cost of owning and maintaining these devices in the form ‘Total Cost of Ownership’ (TCO). TCO is a method of calculating the purchase price of equipment combined with the operational and maintenance cost of the equipment. Organisations often rely on the TCO calculation to determine the value of purchasing certain equipment in line with their budgets and Return on Investment (ROI) goals.
Fire and rescue services can use TCO to determine how best to maintain their devices in accordance with the set budgets, and also understand the very ‘True Cost of Ownership’ of these company devices. True Cost of Ownership gives company executives an overall better idea of the potential ROI of new devices once the potential maintenance and repair costs are determined through soft and hard costs associated with device use. This is paramount, especially as these recent cutbacks in funding are likely to have a detrimental effect on how firefighters service the public. Having stronger visibility over the health of mobile devices means that there will be less of a need to replace them unnecessarily, an activity that accrues a significant cost which also happens to contribute to the maintenance element of TCO.
In essence, the more frequently you replace or repair devices, the higher the TCO, which equals increased spending of the allocated budget. This makes proactive health device monitoring crucial for the sustainability of the fire departments. When fire services go beyond basic mobile device management, they will be able to limit the significant costs associated with replacing and repairing mobile devices. What’s more this will also help eliminate the risk of downtime or inactivity due to a lack of the availability of operational devices. Mobile device failures and malfunctions are issues that are often hidden and incredibly debilitating, and because of this they need to be dealt with in real-time. This is especially due to the detrimental effect they can have on fire service operations and the hefty costs that will likely strike a dent in the annual fire service budgets for technology.
Firefighters need to have greater confidence in their supporting tech, and it is paramount that the right tools are in place to give them this. Any form of mobile device failure and malfunction can be costly in this line of work, especially as changes in operational budgets continue to undergo revisions and changes. Therefore, it is essential that fire services departments are taking a proactive approach to monitor the health and statuses of their mobile devices to ensure a sustainable and efficient service that saves lives.
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