Facing New Realities: Innovation in the Fire Service

In this era of technological advancements, the fire industry continues to struggle with unknowns: Unknown budgets, policy uncertainty, changing regulations and incident unknowns will be the realities facing tomorrow's firefighters.

Working in the realm of the unknown is the new reality, especially for emergency responders.

However, we continue to address the rising uncertainties with the only solutions we know: layoffs, indecision and risk aversion.

No single solution exists for unknowns that lack parameters, conditions and prioritization. To stay ahead of problems, the fire industry needs to counter these unknowns with innovative technologies and new perspectives.

The IAFC has accepted the reality of the future's unknowns and is addressing them head-on through the Technology Council and its subcouncils. The Technology Council is working to address unknowns in four critical areas of the fire service: prevention, incident technologies, leadership and vehicles.

There is a surge of technologies from IT providers, military contractors and civil service-minded businesses working to address high-priority technology needs for responders. These needs come in the form of firefighter monitoring and tracking devices, civilian-responder interfaces, environmentally friendly fire chemicals and technology-enhanced training platforms.

Innovative technologies aim to address the unknowns, create efficiencies and optimize current resources within the fire service. However, technology adoption remains slow, especially for disruptive technologies that don't meet long-established codes, standards and industry-accepted expectations.

Prevention Technologies

A great example is in prevention technologies: the need and growing concern to monitor physiological characteristics of responders, along with the desire to track location in real time, are emerging through innovative technology-integration platforms. Information from these platforms will present new unknowns to the fire industry.

Will knowledge of a responder's wellbeing under stress and location be beneficial? Undoubtedly! But for the technology to be successful, the fire service must adopt innovation and alter its perspective of incident intelligence.

Incident Technologies

Concerning incident technologies, there are separate standards for fire suppressants and fire retardants; no product is currently marketed or approved in both categories. There are products emerging in the market—largely due to environmental concerns over wildland-fire chemicals—that prove to offer competitive performance in both categories of fire chemicals. New products offering dual use at a competitive price lack adoption due to existing perspectives.


Innovation's biggest obstacle in the fire industry is traditional thinking and old perspectives. To proactively address future unknowns, we must open our minds to new technologies and new approaches and be willing to view innovation with a new perspective.


The validity of technologies as it applies to apparatus used by the fire service needs be analyzed. Topics include the vehicle's standard components and any specialized equipment that complements the vehicle's special use in the fire service.

This includes the appraisal of new or preexisting technologies in an innovative manner to provide design alternatives for vehicles used in the fire service that emphasize safe and effective use.

IAFC Innovation Conference

To help fire service leaders navigate these new realities, the IAFC is hosting its first-ever Innovation Conference, to be held February 3-5 in San Diego. Innovative technologies have become the champions on leveling the playing field with unknowns. The Innovation Conference will provide a platform for new perspectives and technologies to address some of the uncertainties of tomorrow.

Fire chiefs and public and private industry leaders will explore technologies that effectively and efficiently outperform current solutions and discuss what obstacles must still be hurdled. Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service's Product Development Center, an exclusive underwriter for the Innovation Conference, will present how "Innovation Through Academia" is working to address the unknowns of the fire service.

To learn more about this unique educational event, visit the Innovation Conference website and register today!

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