09/18/15 259 W - + 8 - 2 Red Cross Smoke Detectors and Robot Garbage Workers

What does the future of the fire service look like?

Two things caught my attention this morning. First was this Firehouse commentary by Daniel Byrne titled Privatization of the American Fire Service is Coming. (Or see the Facebook posting with reader comments.) His topics include a recent Red Cross initiative that installed some 2,200 smoke detectors. Asks Byrne about this admittedly admirable program, "why there was any vacuum in the field of fire protection that allows another outside entity to be able to step in and lead us in the first place?"

Second was a story about Volvo developing robot garbage workers, via this Digital Trends story by Andrew Hard. Program is called ROAR. Robot-Based Autonomous Refuse handling. Two-wheel robots of human size and controlled by an operator in the truck. They hope to test a prototype in 2016. (In a way, it's not terribly far removed from the system that the City of Raleigh uses. Truck operators use an articulated boom to collect and empty curbside containers.)

What do these stories bode for the public servants of tomorrow? Couple things come to mind. First the the "vacuum of opportunity." When needs present and persist, someone or some group will appear (or adapt) to meet those needs. Such as the Red Cross entering the business of fire prevention.

Next are opportunities for cost- and energy/effort-savings, through innovation. Robot garbage men? Looks like it'll happen. Robot firefighters? Byrne references the Navy program that's underway on that front.

Your thoughts?

Fire Protection costs continue to rise well past the rate of inflation and will continue to increase unless something drastic takes place. Communities are having to face cost vs. benefit decisions of providing services much like a corporation has to make decisions to satisfy shareholders. As a 20-plus year veteran of both the fire service and a large corporation, I can appreciate these tough decisions that are being made across America.

Public Safety must continue to evolve or it will go the way of companies like IBM and Nortel. Being an industry leader doesnít guarantee future results. Constant evaluation, re-tooling and most importantly being able to quickly adapt to changing environments is the only way to survive today.

Itís up to us in the fire service to adapt or someone else will come up with a better way. There are a lot of tax dollars at stake and many corporations would love to get their hands on them.
Brian Moffett (Email) - 09/18/15 - 12:50

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