…and I don’t either. But it’s nice to have : )
Emergency Response, and especially Firefighting, is a world steeped in tradition. There’s an expression that goes something like this: “200 years of tradition unimpeded by progress”. Well, that really isn’t true, but everyone would agree that changes come slowly in the fire service, and the old timers will raise an eyebrow at the latest high tech gadgetry.
If you dare pull out your smartphone and show off the latest cool app (from Peakview Software, of course) you might hear “I don’t need one of those gizmos” to fight a fire. Or my favorite “what are you going to do when the batteries die. What then, huh?” they say with a smug smirk.
Well, of course nobody needs a smartphone to fight a fire, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a tool in your personal toolbox. Batteries die on radios all the time, but we still carry them, right? And GPS devices, thermal imagers, gas detectors, etc. We don’t need anything except water to fight a fire, but we still carry an assortment of other tools to make the job easier. And if a gadget breaks or dies, like good firefighters, we improvise.
When your radio dies or you can’t get through, it’s nice to have a phone for backup communication. Your smartphone is also a very nice GPS mapping tool, a camera, a notepad, messaging (text and email), and load with the right emergency response apps, it’s a world of other job tools all rolled into one. Why let the fact that it might die or you might break it stop you from having all those extra goodies available?
And boy, when you are sitting at the station with nothing to do, it is a great training tool. We have many study guides to get you ready for the next level or keep you sharp. You can use out hydraulics calculators to do some “what if” scenarios in seconds. Review checklists for all those special calls that you don’t do that often. Glance at some common hazmat response protocols. Look at predicted wildland fire behavior, record your cert dates or see what you need to do to recert, etc. That sure beats wasting all your idle time.
So yeah, I don’t need a smartphone to do my job, but it sure can come in handy quite often. And if the battery dies (which doesn’t happen to me, because I maintain it like I would maintain my personal radio), I’ll fall back to different tools and techniques to get the job done.