Category Archives: emergency response

My Firefighting Flashlight

Once in a while I like to share some of my favorite tools for the fire service. For my bunker gear, I strap on a Pelican Big Ed right angle flashlight. This puppy is very bright (39 lumens), has a nice ring on top that I can clip on to, and is very rugged. It is Class 1, Division 2 rated.

Personally I prefer the C-battery version, although they also make a rechargeable model. As a volunteer, I keep my gear in my gear bag ready to go, so a long shelf life is critical for me. If you work shifts at the station, you may prefer the rechargeable. About once a year I swap out the batteries so they are fresh and the light is bright. I’ve had my flashlight for over 15 years and it is still going strong.

Do you have a different flashlight you prefer?

Big Ed flashlight on Amazon

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Shortly after writing this post, I checked out a competing flashlight, the Streamlight 90540 Survivor LED Flashlight. I actually have one of these, too, and was surprised that its lumen rating was a whopping 140 in high mode and 47 in low mode. This came as a Christmas gift and never made it in to my bunker gear, but maybe it should replace my Big Ed???

Streamlight Survivor on Amazon

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So They Updated the Apple TV

Should you care? In a nutshell, yes, you should.

Does it contain every home entertainment feature you could ever want? No. Nothing will do that. Like most Apple products, it goes after the mainstream consumer without providing bells and whistles that the majority of customers will never need. However, the fact that you can add third party apps makes it infinitely extensible. More on apps later…

The thing about Apple TV that makes it unique in the Apple ecosystem is the low cost of entry. With a very low price tag ($150) and no monthly fee, there is nothing like it. Even a tiny Apple watch costs double that. And the thing about Apple TV, it’s a shred household expense. Whereas you might balk at spending $300 on yourself for an Apple watch or an upgrade to the latest smart phone model, spending $150 “for the family” is much easier to swallow.

Today, the Apple TV is quite entertaining and easy to use. The remote control with its touch pad makes scrolling around very easy and fast. While Siri is often the subject of ridicule, if you simply learn what Siri is good at and stick to that, it’s quite accurate and saves loads of time. How many times have you wondered if a show was on Netflix or Hulu or iTunes? Now you can find out in a few seconds and see all your viewing options in one screen. How many times have you wanted to skip ahead or behind a minute or some arbitrary amount? It’s easy. I could go on and on about the main features but you can ready about that yourself — I want to focus on what makes it special.

By the way, if all the networks can agree to do what’s best for the consumer (ala carte channels and freedom from cable companies) and stop being so greedy, we can have live TV on the new Apple TV, and that would absolutely make it a must-have product. Hopefully that is coming very soon…

So the first time I was testing my trivia app on my Apple TV, I realized how it was different. At that early stage of development, it was loaded with EMT questions because that was readily available. Like most kids, my daughter was walking by and her eyes went right to the big screen in the living room. She was instantly engaged and wanted to “play”. Even though she didn’t know a thing about emergency medicine, the fact that this “game” was on the TV made it interesting and a group activity. The unique essence of the Apple TV, as compared to a watch, tablet, computer, or your phone, is that it’s a shared device that resides in a comfortable, entertaining location in the house. Since it’s on TV, users expect beautiful graphics and don’t mind some noise (sound effects).

And there are apps for it! A skeptical friend of mine said “I can’t even think of any apps I would want on my TV”. That made me think back to the pre-smartphone days when people were happily texting each other on little number keypads. It was common to hear “I just want my phone to make phone calls”, and that was usually precipitated by crappy attempts by cell phone companies to add “smart features” in a way that made the phone difficult to use and harder to make phone calls. Then the iPhone was introduced in 2008 and the world changed. Yes, there are still some people out there who just want their phone to make phone calls and that’s it, but in my opinion they are missing out on some great things. (And if you feel that way, I’m sorry you read this far — you can stop now.)

So what kind of app would be a good fit for Apple TV? How about some workout apps? Yoga, boot camp, fitness routines. How about some nice ambience apps that show a nice relaxing mountain stream or a fireplace, complete with video and sound? How about some games that work well at parties or with couple and families? Trivia games, name that tune, etc. Karaoke is a good one. The list goes on and on, but for sure, there are games that work well on a large screen and there are some that do not. You can also connect a real game controller to the Apple TV and it begins to compete with consoles. You know, those things that cost more than an Apple TV and every good game costs over $50? You won’t get console-quality game play on your Apple TV, but it begins to approach that market and take a bite out of it.

Peakview Software is working on some apps for the Apple TV right now. We have already released “Awesome Trivia” as a starter. It’s a multiplayer app that is great for couples, parties, families, or something you can just play by yourself. If you are in the emergency services, especially if you teach, imagine if you will having an Apple TV connected to your TV at work (or video projector), and a database of training material that you can pull up in an instant and present to your department. Yes, I bet you can see how useful that would be! Stay tuned…

I Don’t Need That To Do My Job!

…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.

Apps for Emergency Responders

Obviously, my favorite emergency response apps are the ones I’ve created myself : ) But I use a few iOS apps from other developers that I find very handy, and I will list a few of those here:

  • Scanner911 – Sometimes I find myself without my radio, and a 911 call comes in. I almost always have my phone with me, so I will quickly tune in on the internet broadcast of our dispatch channel to stay updated.