As part of our work around city and municipal data, we have been telling more stories about how data can make an impact on our communities, and our Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Streamdata.io inquired about what types of data would help first responders. Prompting us to focus on researching more about how first responders put data to work, and investigate more of the conversation going on around data in the service of supporting firefighters, police, medical, and other professionals who respond to emergency situations. We are just getting started with this research, but had some insights to share.
Building & Housing Data
One of the top areas we see discussion going on around data that would help first responders is regarding anything about houses, buildings, and other structures where emergency situations are happening. Helping first responders understand access, layout, power, water, gas, occupancy, and anything else that might impact their efforts to respond in an emergency situation. Making it an imperative for city managers to do a better job in managing housing and building data, but also making it available so that first responders can get access to it, as well as the vendors who are developing the technological solutions they are putting to work.
Expanding on the building and housing data, another top area of discussions is around location data, going beyond just the building or house, and looking at the block, road, and community level. Understanding more about the location where they are headed, providing them with as much real-time, up to date data on what type of situation they are going into. Painting as much of a picture of the location of the emergency situation as we possibly can, allowing first responders and the people who support them to be able to make better decisions while en-route, or on the scene in an emergency situation.
Moving the discussion in a different direction, one area of discussion that comes up regularly is not around a specific type of data, but investing in the interoperability of first responder systems. Allowing them to better share and reuse information, refine the quality and accuracy of data, and generally sharing resources across public and private groups that respond to emergency situations. Ensuring more interoperability, compatibility, and observability into how data is working, or not working across their operations. Ensuring that first responders can do more with less, helping them be more effective in their operations, without more time and money being invested.
Improved Overall Operations
Another significant area of investment and discussion in the first responder space is around improving overall operations beyond just data interoperability, is introducing more sensors, cameras, and other data gathering tooling to help increase, evolve, and improve upon the data first responders collect, and how they make decisions from it. Going all in on the idea that data can help first responders make better decisions regarding how they can respond to emergency situations. Helping them be smarter in how they do what they do, respond to emergencies in smarter ways, and evolve more confidently in an ever-changing and unpredictable landscape
First Responder Self Care
Shifting the focus from the emergency and the organization to the individual first responder, there is a significant amount of conversation around how to use data to help in the self-care of first responders. From electronic health records to sensors and smart suits, there are growing discussions about how data can be gathered about each first responder to help in the overall decision-making process around emergency situations, but also to help ensure the physical and mental well-being of the first responder themselves. Using data to improve the effectiveness, and overall quality of life of the first responders so that they can keep doing what they do, but also get better at their jobs, and adding value to each emergency situation they are responding to.
Training & Preparedness
After self-care, another topic of discussion is around improving the data acquisition, storage, and use as part of ensuring that first responders are properly trained, and prepared for the situations they are going into. Using data to deliver more up to date and relevant curriculum, and certifying where each first responder stands in regards to the training they should possess. Using data to make sure that all first responders have access to what they need to be prepared, and help ensure they have the time and bandwidth available to stay on course with their training. Establishing, and responding to the data signals that arise from a well designed, executed, and managed training and preparedness apparatus for our first responders.
Focus On The Basics
There are many other conversations going on around different approaches to using data to benefit first responders. We are just getting going with this research into what types of data might benefit first responders, and will be sharing more stories about what we are seeing. However, early on we have identified that it will be important to focus on the basics when it comes to data that supports this sector of our society, and resist getting to excited about some of the more forward leaning areas of data, while making sure we’ve properly invested in the basics of data gathering, storage, and usage around building, location, first responder self-care, training, preparedness and interoperability among first responders. Without the proper platform, we are going to just burden first responders with yet another thing their expected to do, without any of the benefit.
When discussing and investing in data in support of first responders, we need to make sure we prioritize the first responders, and those impacted by the emergencies, before we get too excited about the shiny new technology, and promises of what big data can do. There are plenty of areas to get distracted by data, and we need to focus on it always bringing value to the mission of the first responders. Otherwise we risk burdening first responders with yet another task they have to accomplish in an already stressful work environment. Rendering them less effective than they already are, and not really answering our question regarding how data might help first responders.