Smartphone Apps for the Fire Service

BlackBerry, Apple & Android all offer useful fire service-appropriate apps

By Jane Jerrard
Published Tuesday, March 1, 2011 | From the March 2011 Issue of FireRescue

Smartphones are changing the way we work. The number of apps (applications) designed for use by the fire service seems to increase every day, and is beginning to include more and more that put vital information at firefighters’ fingertips—literally.

For example, Capt. Keith Klassen, Summit (Ariz.) Fire Department and columnist for FirefighterNation.com, keeps his phone handy while training his engine company. “I got my BlackBerry just over a year ago, and I put the Firefighter’s Calculator app on it soon after I got it,” he says. “It calculates water supply for fire flow, nozzle flow, nozzle pressure, all sorts of things. It also calculates foam proportion on apparatus.” Klassen says he used to consult a wallet-sized card with this information—and do additional calculations himself. He still carries the card, “but it has limited information,” he points out. “The great thing about this app is that you just plug in the numbers and it calculates anything.”

Klassen has also checked out the IAFF’s new shift calculator app on his wife’s iPhone. (See “IAFF Pro-Calendar” in Other Available Apps sidebar.) “It looks pretty good. You can put in any shift calendar, and it calculates it out for you. But that’s only available for an iPhone,” he says. “With all the different platforms out there, it’s kind of hit or miss whether something will be available for your phone.”

Deputy Chief William Goldfeder of the Loveland-Symes (Ohio) Fire Department, and a contributing editor for FireRescue magazine, is another fan of using apps for instant information. “I’m amazed every day at the technology that comes out,” he says. “I don’t use these apps every day, but it’s great that I can have them right here, ready to access.” Goldfeder consults his iPhone for weather and mapping. “I use the Weather Channel maps—weather is something we’re always interested in,” he says.  “And I have various apps for mapping that help in identifying locations. I’ve even punched in the address of a call to help me find it.” Goldfeder would like to see someone develop an app that would instantly transfer an incoming page to a map screen on his smartphone.

Right now, Goldfeder says the apps he finds most valuable are WISER, or the Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders, and the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). “WISER is produced by the National Library of Medicine, and you can use it to search for any kind of hazmat substance,” he says. “It includes the Department of Transportation information and the CDC biohazard list.” WISER is available for Windows Mobile devices, Palm PDAs, Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, BlackBerrys, Microsoft Windows PCs, and via WebWISER  at http://webwiser.nlm.nih.gov.

“And the Emergency Response Guidebook—that’s the yellow hazmat book that all emergency responders are familiar with,” Goldfeder says. “I’ve got that right on my phone.” The app allows users to browse or search material names and IDs.

The next time you’re on the job and need to access information from a manual, the radio or the Internet, ask yourself—is there an app for that? You might be able to work smarter by maximizing your smartphone.

Other Available Apps
A sampling of the many apps available for firefighters

Apple Apps

  • IAFF Pro-Calendar: Manage your shift schedule; track sick, comp and vacation time; schedule trainings and personal appointments; and much more. (Available soon in Android version.)
  • 911 Toolkit: Includes info for EMS, incident response checklists, hydraulics and water delivery, the 2008 ERG, training and study guides, and more.
  • Search and Rescue Knots: Steps for tying 27 knots used in emergency situations.
  • iFireCal: Tracks 1/2, 2/4, 3/4 or custom schedules.
  • Fire Logger: It allows you to record critical events and times with a single touch. Great for capturing time stamps for reports.
  • 5-0 Radio: Access more than 35,000 police scanners worldwide.
  • Emergency & Critical Care Pocket Guide: This searchable app includes calculators and the ability to bookmark.
  • EMS BLS and ALS Field Guides: Includes calculators, drug info, search, notes, assessments, current algorithms, current AHA and on-scene references.
  • Fire Department (by the San Ramon Valley Fire District): Citizens are notified if someone nearby is having a cardiac emergency and may require CPR.

Android Apps

  • Hydraulic Fire Hose Calculator: Calculates engine discharge pressure and friction loss.
  • Friction Loss Calc: Determines friction loss for given hose diameters, lengths and desired flow rate.
    Uses formula FL=C*Q^2*L.
  •  Simple Fire Size Up: This app, which is customizable by department, includes scene size-up checklists for structure fires, wildland fires, traffic collision, hazmat and more.
  • Shift Calendar: This app includes an A/B/C shift calendar schedule for fire department personnel and their family members (24-on, 48-off schedule only).

BlackBerry Apps

  • BlackBerry Shift Calendar: Thisoffers a basic view of a monthly shift calendar, and any fire departments’ calendars are available for download.
  • BBScanner: Listen to more than 2,300 police and fire scanners, railroad communications, and weather radio broadcasts worldwide.

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Apple's Rescue Knots app provides steps for tying knots used in emergency situations. Photo Apple
The Android Shift Calendar app includes an A/B/C shift calendar schedule for fire department personnel and their family members (24-on, 48-off schedule only). Photo BrightHub.com
BlackBerry's Firefighter's Calculator app calculates water supply for fire flow, nozzle flow, nozzle pressure and more. Photo BlackBerry



Smartphone Apps for the Fire Service

BlackBerry, Apple & Android all offer useful fire service-appropriate apps Apple's Rescue Knots app
Apple's Rescue Knots app provides steps for tying knots used in emergency situations. Photo Apple

Android Shift Calendar
The Android Shift Calendar app includes an A/B/C shift calendar schedule for fire department personnel and their family members (24-on, 48-off schedule only). Photo BrightHub.com

BlackBerry Firefighter's Calculator
BlackBerry's Firefighter's Calculator app calculates water supply for fire flow, nozzle flow, nozzle pressure and more. Photo BlackBerry

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