How Asset Tracking Impacts First Responders

When first responders arrive at a scene, they must focus on the task at hand, and not waste time thinking about what equipment is available or where it’s located. Without a system for asset tracking management, first responders are challenged to perform their duties efficiently and effectively. Mismanagement of assets takes valuable time away from police, fire, or EMS personnel, and responses can be hindered without the proper tools and equipment.


In the worst-case scenario, missing or unavailable assets could prevent a first responder from saving a life. Instead of leaving access to critical tools and equipment up to chance, more fleets are relying on asset tracking management systems to minimize the impact of mismanaged assets and efficiently track all mission-critical assets.


The Impact of Mismanaged Assets

In emergencies, first responders need access to lifesaving PPE to keep themselves and their patients safe. This is especially true for EMS, police, and fire personnel who are routinely in close contact with civilians.


The US became painfully aware of a lack of PPE inventory preparedness as a result of the 2001 World Trade Center attack. PPE supplies were inadequate, leaving thousands of healthcare workers and first responders exposed to harmful toxins in the air.


In 2014, the Ebola virus outbreak reinforced the importance of PPE preparedness when two healthcare workers with inadequate protection treated an infected patient in Dallas and became infected themselves.


During the COVID pandemic, healthcare workers experienced global PPE shortages, further emphasizing the importance of properly managed assets. Inadequate resources paired with high COVID-19 transmissibility left first responders especially vulnerable. Most (87%) of nurses reported reusing single-use masks out of necessity and 27% of nurses were exposed to COVID-positive patients without wearing proper PPE. Government and first responder agencies were left scrambling for hard-to-get supplies, facing increased competition, and inflated costs. As a result, cities like New York reported that the COVID-19 infection rate for first responders was 15X greater than average.


Proactive asset tracking and management can help ensure that asset shortages are minimized during a public health crisis.


Understanding the Benefits of Asset Tracking

The benefits of asset tracking extend far beyond life and death situations. Fleets that have asset tracking built into their overall fleet operations can reduce waste, optimize existing assets, and reap cost savings year-round. Here are additional advantages:

  • Gain unprecedented visibility: With the help of GPS position reporting, fleet managers can view the current location of supplies, equipment, and vehicles in near real-time.
  • Maintain asset integrity: Don’t let external factors impact the condition of your assets. With built-in sensors for temperature, humidity, light, and impact, fleets can maintain integrity without requiring onsite supervision.
  • Prevent theft and losses: Protect valuable assets with near real-time location and status updates that alert you to theft and unforeseeable losses before it’s too late.
  • Achieve operational efficiency: Deploy automatic software updates remotely to ensure optimal operational status without downtime.
  • Asset reassurance: With asset tracking on a dedicated, secure network that is optimized for IoT devices, fleet managers achieve better signal transmission, longer battery life, and lower fleet costs while having peace of mind.


How Asset Tracking Supports Each Type of First Responder

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to crisis management. Asset tracking offers configurability to support each type of first responder.


Public Safety

Public safety personnel require hardware that can withstand harsh conditions. Whether removing snow during a winter storm or responding to a crisis in the scorching heat, fleet managers can’t afford to lose visibility over their assets.


Asset trackers like the AT1 are purpose-built to withstand the pressures of tough conditions, heavy lifting, and inclement weather first responders can be subjected to. To ensure visibility is never lost, even in remote areas, new cell sites, fixed generators, and other resiliency measures are being added to support existing infrastructure and ensure network resiliency.


These efforts can make a big difference during public safety emergencies. During the 2018 Volvo Ocean Race in Rhode Island, over 100,000 spectators were estimated to be in attendance. Public safety officials outfitted first responders with over 30 FirstNet devices to better track public safety entities among the bustling crowd. When a boat capsized, the team used location-based services on the FirstNet network to pinpoint the exact locations and available assets of their mobile response teams. With enhanced situational awareness, they deployed the closest available resource and were able to respond to the situation quickly and effectively.


When bush or forest fires ravage an area, firefighters can be dropped into remote areas with limited access to supplies or visibility from management. Without proper oversight, firefighters can lose connectivity with their team and even end up missing. Asset tracking provides remote supervision and ensures first responders on the scene are equipped and connected.


In addition to tracking teams on the ground, asset trackers allow first responder teams to automate their inventory counts and conduct automatic inspections of high-value equipment. This helps teams conduct preventative maintenance, track valuable equipment, and avoid costly situations (e.g., when a $1,500 generator was stolen off a Texas fire truck).


In 2020, FirstNet’s asset tracking was even used by Seattle’s Fire Department to help facilitate efficient vaccine distribution to those in affordable housing and assisted living facilities, as well as to pop-up clinics around the city.



Law Enforcement

Police need visibility over their specialized equipment so it’s available in a crisis and does not end up in the wrong hands. When a valuable defibrillator was stolen from the City of Las Vegas IT Department, their asset tracker automatically alerted them when the asset was outside of its pre-set Geofence. Local law enforcement relied on asset tracking to find and apprehend a suspect in less than two hours and recover the stolen equipment.


Asset tracking is also helping local agencies track specialized equipment in remote locations. Law enforcement in Santa Clara County responds to over 25 searches and rescues each year. They rely on specialized equipment like mobile cell towers, Flying Cell on Wheels (COW), and drone equipment. They leverage asset tracking to deploy connectivity for this specialized equipment in remote areas and streamline getting necessary supplies and equipment deployed more quickly at critical moments.


Similarly, asset tracking helps locate officers and resources for situational awareness. When a shooting suspect fled into a wooded area during an active pursuit, Green Bay SWAT successfully orchestrated a methodical search with local police and other agencies using a combination of asset tracking, interoperable communication, and perimeter assessments. The department never lost connectivity with command or dispatch and are now using asset and GPS tracking technology to improve their everyday operations.



EMS need PPE to protect themselves and others from contagions. Many EMS teams rely on manual reports of PPE usage, which leads to inaccurate and inefficient tracking. By using asset tracking for PPE, EMS teams are better equipped for large-scale emergency response and can more accurately report PPE usage numbers to the government or other agencies.


In 2021, asset tracking is also helping EMS personnel track COVID-19 vaccine shipments from production to clinics in real time. By viewing the live status of the distribution process, asset tracking can act as a “command center” that expedites vaccine roll-outs. Considering how important temperature regulation is for certain vaccines, having improved visibility allows companies to maintain integrity throughout the entire distribution process.


Track All Mission-Critical Assets with Fleet Complete

All first responder teams can benefit from asset tracking software, especially to prepare and respond in emergencies. Fleet Complete’s Asset Tracking Solution is the first of its kind to connect FirstNet core with powerful telematics for tracking first responder equipment and vehicles. With multi-sensor systems to capture and log asset activity in the field, fleet managers can make data-driven decisions that prioritize team and public safety.


Asset tracking helps first responders monitor equipment integrity, ensure vehicle safety, and prioritize team preparedness to be ready at all times.


To learn more about how fleets can streamline their asset tracking management, request a Fleet Complete for FirstNet demo today.


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