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5 Ways Geolocation Helps Fire and EMS

ESO Staff

New and free tools are now available to help first responders be more prepared for emergency response as well as more efficiently locate victims, team members, and community resources, all be leveraging geolocation.

Many people are familiar with using satellite-based geolocation tools included in their smart phones or personal GPS devices to help map out the best routes when traveling. The device transmits its location to the service provider, and a real-time location is then displayed on the device’s screen, showing the best routes to take and how to correct any wrong turns. The same technology, however, promises a wide range of benefits to first responders and fire agencies, as recently outlined by FireEngineering.com.

For example:

  1. More Efficient and Useful Pre-inspection
    Fire agencies can make their pre-inspection reports more accurate by including GPS and/or longitude and latitude information on property information. Some of today’s top inspection report recording software allows for customized fields, creating the perfect way to store important information that can prove to be pivotal during an emergency. Record geolocation of points of entry, hazardous materials, utilities, hydrants, water systems, and more.
  2. Improved Hydrant Location
    Many fire services and municipalities regularly monitor and inspect local hydrants to ensure proper flow and functionality. Being able to easily locate a properly working hydrant during emergency response can save valuable time and resources, especially when working with secondary and support agencies who may be called in to help with response. Agencies can also submit their local hydrant locations to the U.S. National Grid (USNG) to increase efficiencies in the USNG mapping system.
  3. Easier Location of Victims and Team Members
    9-11 operators often have tools to help locate callers and make a more efficient response. However, this information at times lacks some accuracy. Today, there are several free apps that members of the public can access to track more accurately their current location. For example, the free browser app FindMeSar.com offers an accurate reading of a device’s location within minutes, given in USNG (same as MGRS), UTM, and latitude/longitude in both decimal degrees and decimal minutes. The map also allows a user to see his or her location in an aerial Google map, allowing for many victims to self-rescue if lost, or allowing team members to relay more accurate location information to Incident Command if needed.
  4. More Accurate Maps for Team Members and IC
    As you begin to gather more detailed geolocation information for your agency, you should also consider requesting gridded maps for use by your team. Gridded maps can greatly increase accuracy and planning your response to emergency, especially as you begin to record and maintain geolocation information like hydrant location and property information. In an emergency response, one very large complex can have a single address; geolocation information can save your team valuable time, as well as save lives and property when seconds can make a difference.
  5. More Helpful Location Markers
    More and more states and standardizing on using signs and markers with geolocation information. These signs, recognizable in their emergency blue color, are being posted on trails and within parks, and display the GPS location of the sign with accuracy up to 10 meters. Encouraging your city or municipality to look into installing these types of signs in parks and hiking areas can help your response team more easily locate victims, and also ease communication between team members during response events.

Leveraging an areal view and accurate, satellite-based location information can be an invaluable tool for fire agencies and first responders who are working hard to arrive and render aid as quickly as possible. Using these easy steps can make key differences when it comes to saving lives and property.

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