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The long arm of broadband

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Last week, I moderated a webinar — which is archived here, in case you missed it — that examined how public safety's nationwide broadband communications network will improve emergency response. It was fascinating. The things that are being envisioned for this network simply are amazing, and I don't think they have scratched the surface of what will be possible. Let your imaginations run wild.

In this issue, Senior Editor Mary Rose Roberts drills down on this from the perspective of the fire service. There are some who believe that this network is much more a law-enforcement play, and that the fire service — as well as the emergency medical service — won't benefit nearly as much. Indeed, real-time streaming video for surveillance from the beginning has been regarded as the killer application for this network, and police officers will further benefit from enhanced database access, fingerprint identification, facial recognition and in-the-field reporting, to name just a few of the capabilities that this network either will make possible or improve.

But I am certain that those who believe that fire/EMS won't benefit as much as law enforcement are wrong. This network eventually will allow paramedics in the field to teleconference with medical experts — perhaps on the other side of the world — and transmit images and videos to help doctors prepare for the patient's arrival. One day, they will be able to perform advanced diagnostics in the field, such as CT scans and MRIs. Meanwhile, biometric monitoring of firefighters could help prevent heat-stress injuries, which is critical, because roughly half of all line-of-duty deaths in the fire service are related to cardiac incidents.

In addition, this network will improve the ability of incident commanders to keep track of their firefighters. This is vitally important. I know this for a fact. One of my relatives — a Chicago firefighter — was buried in some sort of building collapse decades ago. The details are a little fuzzy at this point, so I don't know how long he was under the rubble before he was found and dug out. But here's what I do know — however long it was, it was far too long.

So, I'm looking forward to the day when this network — and the devices and applications that will run on it — enables first responders to get out of trouble faster than they got into it — or, better still, avoid trouble in the first place.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.

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What's Urgent Matters?

Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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