President's Letter: Flying Cars and Picture Phones

I was born in the 1950s; I won't say exactly when, but Harry Truman was president. Commercial jet travel wasn't available yet, television was beginning to replace radios in homes and computers were new to businesses and meant punch cards and a whole room to house the computer.

The fire service of the day included radios mounted in some of the responding engines and trucks, portable radios were extremely rare, runners at the scene were how we communicated on scene. Firehouses had a watch desk where a member was assigned to watch the alarms come in from the pull boxes on to the "joker tape"; 911 was still in the future.

While I wasn't in the fire service then, my father was, and I recall sitting in the watch desk and seeing the bell punch out the tape with the callbox number.

In those days, science—and science fiction—showed us a future with flying cars in every home and picture phones connected us with our associates and our loved ones; space travel was our future—the sound barrier had only recently been broken.

While it’s fun to look back at where we were, it’s amazing to see where we are now. And as amazing as the present is, the mind boggles at where we will be in the future. The manufacturers who provide the tools of our trade have had their R&D departments working on meeting our needs, both for today and tomorrow.

But with the advent of our technological leap forward by acquiring the bandwidth needed to support the advances they can offer, they’re now shifting into hyperdrive. The leap forward we will take because of the acquisition of the D Block bandwidth is beyond at least my imagination.

I’ve had the opportunity to see some of the innovations already available to us that will be usable as soon as the bandwidth is available. Without giving away trade secrets, just imagine the things we have thought about and wished for for decades: the ability to track our crews inside multistory structures—to monitor not just where they are but their air reserves, their vitals, the fire and environment conditions.

The ability to tie into traffic cameras to monitor, before we arrive, the accident we’re responding to and the conditions of our crash victims.

The ability to tie into school cameras to monitor an active shooter scene, the ability to show an emergency physician firsthand via live video the conditions of our patients.

Amazing stuff, yet only what we are capable of doing today!

The advances from this day forward will seem like science fiction to my generation, but for those of you who have at least 10 years left of your career, you’ll be the ones to help our manufacturers brainstorm the advances to come.

As we have made the leap from handheld radios and commercial jet travel to space travel and being able to visit with friends and family via FaceTime (though I'm still waiting for my flying car!), you’ll help make the leap to the as yet unimaginable.

Chief Al H. Gillespie, EFO, CFO, MIFireE
President and Chairman of the Board

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