For emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, police, and other potential first responders, time is everything. Radio dispatchers help first responders in plotting the shortest possible route to their emergency calls, including bypassing current traffic disturbances. While radio dispatchers will continue to play an indispensable role, there are several new technological improvements that first responders can use to further reduce response time as well as obtain vital information before they arrive at the scene.
First Responder Support Tools (FIRST) is a cellphone application that provides map-based assistance for improvisational explosive device (IED) safe standoff distances, as well as equivalent information for hazardous materials (hazmat) spills. Safe standoff distance refers to the amount and intensity of damage that certain explosive devices or hazardous materials may have in an area, which assists first responders in setting up an effective perimeter to avoid further injuries. These distances also help first responders prioritize zones of likely casualties or severe injuries, which helps to conserve medical resources that may already be spread thin.
New national networks, such as the Network Authority (FirstNet) as well as the NextGeneration 9-1-1 (NG911) will implement these cellphone application tools, among others, from their inception. These networks will also allow public officials to communicate more efficiently during weather emergencies and public safety announcements. Dedicated networks for these announcements will reduce the possibility of unavailability during emergencies, in addition to providing faster information transfer speeds for first responders.
Emergency cellphone applications also have the ability to improve public knowledge regarding emergency procedures. When organized correctly, these emergency applications will allow even laypersons to make sound medical decisions that will prepare the injured for the arrival of first responders. Some emergency cellphone applications have even provided tracking information for subscribers, so that when entering a new area, subscribers can view the medically-related profiles provided by other providers. These programs also have alarms to trigger in the event of an emergency. The application then sends a message to all subscribers in the area, letting them know that someone near their location needs medical attention. Such a system may be especially useful for the elderly or persons who live alone.
Looking ahead, cellphone applications will continue to have an important role in the medical community. Major relief organizations like the American Red Cross host several different cellphone applications for both public and private use. These applications are geared toward natural disasters, with specifics for hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and wildfires. In addition to providing directions on how to deal with (and properly report) such events, the American Red Cross cellphone applications can also help members of the public find shelter in an emergency.