This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
Imagine a scenario where whoever came to save you is injured during the rescue effort. Perhaps they were burned from the raging fire, or inhaled too much smoke or broke a limb. Rescuers who have themselves been injured surely cannot help you or anyone else during trouble, which calls for the critical need to better emphasize the safety of first responders.
A conference which was held on Thursday at the Israeli Air Force Center and organized by SIBAT, the Ministry of Public Security, and the Bird foundation, dealt with innovations in the field of first responders. During the conference, Mr. Dan Cotter, head of the first responders group at the Science and Technology directorate of the Department of Homeland Security, noted the ways in which first responders work can be made more efficient. Cotter claims that one of the most important elements to do so is to ensure their safety.
In order to do so, an efficient communication is needed. Cotter mentioned that about two years ago a great tragedy occurred in the US, when hundreds of firemen tried to put out a large fire in the state of Arizona, during which 19 team members died. Authorities announced that they cannot make contact with the fire fighters and a helicopter was dispatched to search for them. The fire services, however, later confirmed that they have died in the fire. Had they had communications to transmit their exact location and alert them on the weather conditions, and more specifically on the dangerous changes in wind – they might have been saved.
From exercises in the past and from operations in the field, it is well-known that lack of communications does not prevent first responders from carrying out their mission, but there is little doubt that the lack of advanced technological platforms for cooperation different teams is a gap that should be addressed as soon as possible. Zvika Kanfer, Head of Science & Technology Division at the Ministry of Public Security, also addressed the gaps in first responders capabilities. According to Kanfer, there is a need for technologies to provide real-time data regarding the location of first repsonders, their proximity to different dangers as well as detecting and analyzing active and passive threats in the field. There is also a need to develop systems that could scan from a distance the event scene while monitoring vital signs, in order to track down injured team members and casualties. Finally, Mr. Kanfer noted as well the issue of protection means for first responders, mostly in wearable technologies, as well and the issue of communications between the teams.
All that is left is to present the existing needs to the global market industries and have them come up with solutions. Dr. Eitan Yudilevich, CEO of Bird Foundation, which aims for cooperation between Israeli and American companies from different technological fields, stated that the foundation supports projects from various sectors, allowing to follow what is happening beyond the wall, smart antennas and even technologies meant to better and more accurately distribute the water from fire fighting helicopters over the fires. First responders, it seems, are about to undergo a makeover in the not-so-distant future.