Joplin Fire Department trains with GPS for rescue missions

Joplin Fire Department trains with GPS for rescue missions
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The Joplin Fire Department is utilizing new GPS technology. Missouri Task Force 1 designed the system that is now used throughout the country. The hand held systems will help the department during disasters.

The Special Operations Team hits the pavement, tracking their every move. Using specially created maps, they wrap up search and rescue training with the latest Garmin GPS devices.

“It is relatively easy,” says Mark Cox, a member of the Special Operations Team.

The small equipment will have a large impact on the department.

“It will improve our efficiency, making us a lot quicker, being able to get jobs completed a lot quicker, and getting help out to the folks that need it,” continues Cox.

In a disaster, crews will use the GPS to document their progress. They use icons to note the situation at exact locations, including dead or injured people, destroyed buildings, or hazardous materials.

“Any information that we need to know as a fire department, that the local and federal emergency planners need to know, we can provide that in these GPS units really, really fast,” says Mark Cannon, Fire Training Chief with the department.

All of the information is transmitted back to the command center almost immediately, cutting down on paperwork and further speeding up the process.

“Paper has to be translated by somebody, it has to be pushed up the chain of command to the appropriate government agencies and that’s a slow process, especially when you’re trying to get resources to the people that need it the fastest,” says Allen Brown with Missouri Task Force 1.

The technology will be used most during natural disasters and will help officials prioritize what needs to be done.

“You can’t really send a bunch of people into an area to do several different jobs at once, its utter chaos. This allows us the opportunity to go in and do a primary search, get the people who can walk out find the people that are in dire need of medical attention, get them out. But it helps us to prioritize what’s going to happen next,” says Cannon.

All benefiting residents in danger.

“Anything that will get help to our customers or the citizens of Joplin will help us to be able to provide a better care and better service,” says Cox.

Because federal based emergency officials use the same technology, the information can be shared between the different departments.

Each GPS device costs about $400.