4 Ways Telematics Technology Empowers Proactive Response for First Responders
First responders have always been relied upon to respond to a variety of natural and human-caused disasters. Now that we are facing the effects of a global pandemic, their services are even more critical. First responders have to assess situations in real time for injuries or loss of life. This requires quick, independent decisions—and makes first responders susceptible to secondary, or vicarious, traumatization.
Secondary trauma is when an individual experiences similar symptoms to victims due to indirect exposure to trauma or close contact with a survivor. Considering how regularly first responders are exposed to people in crisis, coupled with repeated exposures and the immense stress of working in emergency services, they are at increased risks for developing adverse health effects. These include prolonged distress, disturbed sleep, strained interpersonal relationships, increased substance use, and depression.
What can first responders do to minimize the harmful effects of secondary trauma and ensure they recover from trauma exposure? Experts are repeatedly finding that taking a proactive approach to fleet management can equip first responders with the necessary tools to make rapid, informed decisions on the scene and implement processes to protect against unexpected situations.
The Damaging Effects of a Reactive Response
When a crisis occurs, there is often little time to prepare and limited information available. First responders need to react quickly and respond to unknown scenarios, sometimes in harsh conditions with limited resources—and despite knowing all of the risks involved. This reactive response to emergencies is causing increased levels of PTSD among ambulance personnel (4.6%), firefighters (7.3%), police officers exposed to major disasters (4.7%), and other rescue teams (13.5%).
Moreover, 69% of EMS professionals say they never have enough time to recover between traumatic events. This takes a heavy emotional toll and has led experts to estimate that 30% of first responders suffer from behavioral health illnesses such as depression and PTSD. Yet, very few seek out behavioral healthcare, especially when assisting with an ongoing disaster.
Even when first responders are prepared for a situation, they can still be caught off guard:
- Firefighter disorientation—defined as getting disoriented or lost in a structure—is one of their most serious work hazards according to NIOSH. It can largely be avoided by conducting a thorough analysis of the structure’s integrity during aggressive fires.
- According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 6,500 ambulance collisions happen every year in the U.S., yet 84% of EMS in the patient compartment were not wearing seatbelts.
Although there has been a small decline (2%) in the number of police officer traffic-related incidents from 2019 to 2020, fatalities in 2020 involved automobile crashes with another vehicle (18), single-vehicle crashes (8), being struck while on the side of the road (15), motorcycle crashes (3).
First responders will inevitably be called to a scene where the scale, duration, and scope are beyond what they have experienced or planned for before. Fleet managers must be proactive in supporting first responders in these dynamic situations, including their en route safety.
Creating a Strategy to Support First Responders
Not all emergency response situations can be planned for—uncertainty comes with the job. However, experts are finding that first responders demonstrate higher levels of resilience and lower burnout rates when proactive steps (e.g., crisis and behavioral health training) were taken.
Fleet managers can minimize job site stress for first responders before, during, and after deployment by taking the following measures:
- Establish a clearly outlined emergency response and business continuity plan with protocols and steps.
- Include team members in the development of the new processes to ensure the entire fleet is aligned and understands the significance of the protocol. Once completed, make sure they are all adequately trained.
- Have a plan in place for command to gather as much situational awareness from the scene as possible to reduce dangers from disaster exposure.
- Establish reliable lines of communication between command and first responders on the scene.
- Recognize good work during a crisis, empower your staff, and assign responsibilities thoughtfully.
This strategy should be aimed at alerting fleet managers early to potential threats that may compromise the safety or well-being of their teams. Planning for the unknown with an established protocol prepares first responders for various emergencies and supplies the tools they need to inform their command centers of how the situation is unfolding on the ground. Command can then support the first responders and they can collectively determine the best course of action.
How Telematics Power a Proactive Response
Telematics is helping fleets take a proactive approach to disaster response by reducing the effects of the unknown. GPS tracking software allows team leaders to track their fleets’ vehicle health and driver behavioral data from a single, unified platform. Here are 4 ways telematics empowers first responders:
- Fleet managers can track driver routes, be alerted to harsh braking activity, and monitor acceleration rates and speeds from first responder vehicles before they result in an accident. Considering how often first responders work in high-pressure and time-sensitive situations, command centers must make it a priority to monitor risky behavior that increases the likelihood of a crash.
- Real-time telematics also provide situational awareness so dispatchers can assess the scene faster and coordinate the most effective response. The fleet manager can reference a chronological log of the activity taken during the dispatch call, and access accurate vehicle sensor activity for proof that the team engaged their siren and lights during a dispatch.
- Asset tracking ensures teams know what equipment is available and fully functional at a moment’s notice, empowering vehicles to get to the scene faster. While fleets are on site during a crisis, engine control modules alert command to the current status of all vehicles and help keep track of high-value BLS equipment.
- Seamless communication between fleets and command centers ensures that first responders and their teams can make collaborative decisions. With interoperability built into your telematics solutions, fleet managers can maintain uninterrupted communication to power mission-critical decisions on site.
Take a Proactive Approach to First Response with Fleet Complete for FirstNet®
A proactive approach to first response ensures that first responders can more effectively do their jobs, avoid worksite accidents, and minimize the harmful effects of secondary trauma. Fleet Complete’s powerful telematics is specifically designed for first responders to take a comprehensive, scalable, and proactive approach to public safety and in-field crisis management.
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