From training to documentation, BWC use cases go beyond law enforcement to benefit any emergency response team
Imagine this: You arrive on the scene of a multi-car accident at a busy intersection. As firefighters, you and your squad are part of the emergency response team, and you do what you can to neutralize the situation and ensure any injured parties get the help they need. While you’ve been doing your job and protecting the public, civilians have gathered – many of them with their phones out, actively recording. In minutes, dozens of these videos appear on social media, many with additional commentary from bystanders who don’t know the full context of the situation.
In these types of scenarios, having your own camera footage can create valuable evidence and debunk any misinformation. Although they’re often considered a police tool, body-worn cameras have numerous benefits that go beyond law enforcement. In addition to preserving the truth in unpredictable, high-pressure incidents, body-worn cameras for firefighters can assist with everything from training to situational awareness — while helping to keep your squad safer.
Body-worn cameras for firefighters: 5 benefits
Of the nearly 27 million calls made to fire departments every year, only 4% are fire-related. Firefighters must be prepared for a variety of emergency situations, as they never know what to expect on a given day. They might be responding to requests for emergency medical services, motor vehicle accidents, other types of hazardous conditions and even severe weather or natural disasters. This requires comprehensive training, but traditional methods can be expensive and time-consuming while lacking engagement. As Chief David Zacherl of the Texas City Fire Department put it, “It’s one thing to talk about certain things… it’s another to show them.”
This “show, don’t tell” approach proved effective for Chief Zacherl after equipping his team with Axon Body 3 cameras. The footage recorded by these devices gave trainees an unprecedented view into fire responses, as well as other emergency situations; Chief Zacherl pointed out that videos of intubations were especially valuable. These recordings also acted as conversation starters, allowing Chief Zacherl to hold discussions about the techniques shown in the footage and potential areas for improvement.
Because body-worn cameras like the Axon Body 4 have livestreaming capabilities, even firefighters who aren’t at the scene can be alerted of an incident in real-time. This allows commanders back at the station to monitor calls and direct their squads through challenging situations, whether that means a house fire, a vehicle collision or a belligerent member of the community. Additionally, commanders are able to keep track of their squads via live maps, providing even more situational awareness.
Ultimately, being able to observe the scene with real-time video and respond via two-way communication improves emergency responses. Rather than waiting for more help to arrive – or having firefighters try to describe what’s happening in the midst of the action – incident command can help their responders work through competing priorities away from the sensory overload of the incident scene. Chief Zacherl described it as “like watching a movie or TV program” thanks to the Body 3’s high resolution and audio quality, adding that the body-worn cameras provided an “unprecedented view” into fire responses specifically.
Heightened safety and transparency
In emergency situations, tensions are running high.The stress of the situation can quickly spiral out of control and even lead to assaults against firefighters and other first responders. Because most fire calls require firefighters to interact with civilians on the scene, there’s always a risk that things could escalate, turning a routine call into a “he said/she said” scenario that ends with injuries or hospitalization.
Body-worn cameras heighten firefighter safety in these situations in a couple of ways. First, just the presence of body-worn cameras can help de-escalate, as civilians are less likely to act out if they know they are being recorded. Additionally, though there might be any number of people recording on smartphones at the scene, body-worn cameras record the only point of view that matters: the truth. This eliminates any ambiguity and makes he said/she said a thing of the past.
Creation of evidence
Body-worn cameras continue to provide value beyond the incident scene. The videos recorded during calls for service can be used as indisputable evidence in the event of any legal proceedings. For firefighters, these recordings might include scene walkthroughs, witness interviews, escalating conditions – just about anything recorded during an incident might be used as evidence later.
In fact, modern technology makes the preservation of evidence via body-worn cameras even easier. For example, the Axon Body 4 integrates with Axon Evidence, a comprehensive digital evidence management system (DEMS) that allows for intuitive file management while also offering secure encryption, audit trails and customizable user permissions. By using a body-worn camera in conjunction with a comprehensive evidence management system, you’ll make it easier for your squad to preserve invaluable video and audio and share it with other stakeholders.
Even when the fires have been extinguished and lives have been saved, firefighters’ jobs aren’t quite done. After each incident, emergency responders that were on the scene must document their actions in an incident report. However, trying to recall minute details from a period of split-second decisions and rushing adrenaline can be challenging in the hours and days that follow.
Thankfully, body-worn cameras make writing these post-incident reports much easier – and more accurate. Emergency responders can rely on video footage to fill in any gaps in their memories, creating a precise record of everything that happened. For firefighters, body-worn cameras offer an additional documentation benefit; as they’re often tasked with building code enforcement, they can use their cameras to document any code violations or enforcement interactions.
Help prepare firefighters for anything with Axon
Body-worn cameras for firefighters are becoming increasingly necessary, and their benefits are indisputable. The next-generation Axon Body 4 can equip your squad and help keep them safe in life-threatening situations. With a high-quality, five-megapixel camera sensor and robust bi-directional communications, the Axon Body 4 keeps squads in the field connected to those back at the station. A 160-degree field of view captures the whole scene, and the extended battery life is designed to last for a full shift. Get in touch to learn more.