12/02/07 71 W - + 13 - 14 Raleigh and Growth

Today's News & Observer features features on planning for the future in the Capital City, asking the question what is Raleigh's future? and what will Raleigh look like 2030. There's also a nifty interactive graphic demonstrating Raleigh's projected 70 percent (!) population growth in each of the city's 10 planning districts, and some videos on the subject of planning. So what the Raleigh Fire Department, Wake EMS, and neighboring agencies look like in 2030?

Imagining an 70-percent expansion of RFD by 2030— population growth and fire protection expansion are probably not 1:1 correlations, mind you. I am not a planner nor do I play one on television— the numbers yield 46 (!) stations, 47 engines, 12 ladders, 5 rescues, 7 battalions, 858 operations positions, 889 total positions, and a budget of $65,226,606. Okay, let’s try to get more realistic. Comparing RFD in 1980 to 2007— 27 years instead of 23— and using those percentages to calculate RFD growth from 2007 to 2030 yields these numbers: 48 stations, 49 engines, 8 ladders, 4.5 rescues, 8 battalions, 770 authorized positions, and a budget of $126,415,635. The problem with comparing the past 27 years is that the numbers reflect a response to enormous geographic growth. Will the city expand its borders as vastly as they did in the late 20th Century? Basing future-based percentages on geographic growth might be interesting, as well as comparing past call volume increases. Hey, who doesn’t have time on their hands on a Sunday morning?
Legeros - 12/02/07 - 08:06

…but numbers are easy. Let’s put our imaginations to work. What will the fire service itself look like in 23 years?

How about PPE with wireless telemetry? Imagine a “medical safety officer” tracking the vital signs of all personnel at a fire. Think James Cameron’s “Aliens,” with the MSO sitting at a mobile monitoring console. Heck, what about PASS-type devices, that strobe or squeal if a person’s vital signs start toward the red?

Thermal imaging cameras will get better, and smaller, and certainly cheaper. Equip with wireless networking and imagine an incident commander with the capability to switch between multiple thermal imaging camera views in his vehicle.

How about home smoke detectors equipped with wireless networking? Imagine a fire department or municipality providing a “free” monitoring network. Burn some toast, the detector goes off, and you receive an instant communication. Hello, do you have a fire? If you don’t answer within, say, 30 seconds, the fire department is notified. Or maybe if the detector is still going off, and is registering increasing heat levels, etc.

The above model can also apply to medical monitoring, and not just for elderly citizens. If a device detects disrupted vital signs, the person receives an instant communication. Hello, have you fallen and can’t get up?

What will apparatus look like in 23 years? Probably about the same as today, or maybe a bit more European-looking. Maybe more enclosed. Enhancements for safer operation will be present. Cameras viewing the rear, or blind spots. Maybe even devices that detect objects in the path of the apparatus. Warnings if the apparatus is being operated in an unsafe fashion.

For navigation, GPS and mapping will be ubiquitous. Every vehicle will have low-priced, high-featured tools that tell you where to turn, and which street to take. Perhaps voice-recognition will have reached a stage where spoken commands are common.

Computer-based information will also be ever-present. Imagine a database, or series of databases, on every building. Construction, occupancy, size, dimensions, hazards. Plus interior, exterior, and floor plan images. The database is accessed through any number of wireless networked devices, including small electronic book readers that a company officer carries on their person.

Fires will still be fought with the wet stuff, though with pervasive use of compressed foam or other wetting agents. Could entire water systems be effectively equipped with “better than water?”

The demographics of the fire service will continue to broaden, with more diversity in race, gender, background, and educational experience. College degrees may become the coin of the realm for leadership positions. Perhaps career development tracts will be expanded beyond the traditional firefighter to lieutenant to captain to low chief to high chief.

Will “mechanical men” make an appearance? Japanese fire departments use robots for high-hazard environments. These are rolling devices. Walking robots would be next.

Pretty bright future, I think. Going to have to wear shades.
Legeros - 12/02/07 - 11:58

Wireless telemetry technology is already here- we have Bluetooth. Think about the hand grips on a treadmill that monitor your HR. I think it would be a not-so-far-leap to have integrated PPE and SCBA that would allow HR, BP, and ETCO2 monitoring. Integrate BP cuffs into the arms of turnout coats, integrate ETCO2 devices into the SCBA mask, and detection points in the sleeves for HR monitoring, along with a Bluetooth transmitter on the SCBA.

As to thermal imaging in a more portable form, this would be no more than an adaptation of the technology that the military pilots (particularly the army’s and Marines’ attack helicopter pilots) use. And again, add a Bluetooth transmitter to the termal imager, and now the IC can monitor what is happening in ‘real time’. Of course, this would effectively end the use of Tahoes and such for IC vehicles. Even the BC would have to be equipped with a van and a driver. On arrival, he would go back to his console. Run an acquisition for the transmitters on scene and then watch it all on the screens in front of him. Instead of a van, maybe some sort of medium duty chassis with a module on back that includes a cuppola, much like the railraod cabooses had- only a bubble top to allow all around visibility.

Government monitored smoke detectors in my residence? No. Sounds like Big Brother. If I pay for the monitoring through a third party, fine. But I do not want the government having ‘sensor’ access to my home. Not no, but he** no. What would be next? As to medical monitoring, it is already here, sort of. Some patients have cardiac monitors that provide warning to a reception point if their heart rate/rhythm goes awry. I can see it for high-risk patients, but not for the general public. I can think of several reasons my heart rate and blood pressure might go up at home, and I may not want the local dispatch point to know about it.

I think that in 23 years there will be more emphasis on visibility (chevrons and side patterns), more enclosure, improved restraint systems. I would like to see some sort of device that takes over FM/AM broadcast and cell phones within specific ranges to warn of our approach. I also see routine use of ‘black boxes’ that provide feedback on how the vehicle and the driver are doing. FirstHealth of the Carolinas had deployed those units on their ambulances and they provide pretty good feedback. They are a great training tool. And they helped settle a warranty dispute in their favor involving a 2 mph collision that resulted in $4,000 in damages. And I think you will see more use of video cameras for backing, lane changes, turning, and to serve as a record for what is ahead.

Most of the navigation stuff is already here, but I am not sure how much integration of all of it there is. We are going to have AVL for EMS soon, along with navigation. What I would like to see is an integration of the tax office’s records (property photos) with the CAD software, and add to it some sort of preplanning software that allows for information on larger occupancies. Of course, I would also like to see more preplanning by EMS, which is hard to do given our ever increasing call volumes. I think the biggest hold ups to this are hardware costs and software propieties.

As to the computer based databases, I think we already have a lot of this information, we just cannot coordinate the various agencies like the tax office, the inspections department, planning offices, etc.

I think you are going to see the day, maybe not in my lifetime, that entry level firefighters and paramedics are going to be required to have a minimum of an Associate Degree. Maybe there will even be a ‘hybrid’ between an AAS and a BS, sort of an “expanded AAS”. I can see where an EMS District Chief or an FD Captain or Battalion Chief will be required to have a Bachelor’s Degree. And I don’t see that as a strictly local requirement.

On the training front, I would like to see the state get out of the business of certifying anyone. EMS has the National Registry. Let’s do away with state certification of EMTs, EMT-Is, and paramedics and just go with the Registry. And I would really like to see the same sort of thing for the fire service. Imagine that- a single nationwide standard for firefighter, apparatus operator, company officer, etc. And I would like to see an expansion of programs like the Executive Fire Officer so that it is more accessible, yet required for executive level chief officers.
DJ (Email) - 12/02/07 - 13:08

Heads up display of floor plans in your scba, if you get lost press a button and the floor map pops up and shows you the way to closest exit, while also sending a signal to the batt chief that shows exactly where you are in the building…
SCBA - 12/02/07 - 17:00

Mike, I think that your growth projections will need to take into account limitations to the physical expansion of the City of Raleigh that exist today versus in 1980. You now have other municipialities that have landlocked borders on several fronts and established watersheds on at least two sides (Falls and Swift Creek) that will restrict municipal growth in those directions. What you will see by 2030 is a significant increase in population density in existing parts of the city. The interesting thing will be to see how the FD model responds to increases in call volumes due to density growth and not through geographic expansion. More stations between current stations? More double engine stations? Higher utilization of the existing resources? My guess is the latter of the three. It is safe to assume that before 2030, you will see the end of the 24-hour shift, something already in the past in many large, high-density cities.

I think all the technology suggestions mentioned are great. We just can’t lose sight that experience puts out fires and common sense keeps us safe. If we get so dependent upon technology that we can’t find our way out of a building without it, we’ll be going to a lot more funerals.
Olson - 12/02/07 - 23:43

And that technology dependence is also apparent in EMS, since a lot of folks (EMTs up through paramedic) seem to have forgotten how to take a blood pressure or a pulse rate without a defibrillator/monitor or a pulse oximeter.

Treat the patient- not the machine.

Know your way in and know your way out.

Watch out for your buddy- if he looks like he needs a break, then insist that he take a break, even if that means YOU take a break. Chest compressions on firefighters are not fun- been there, done that.
DJ (Email) - 12/03/07 - 14:12

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