Study to probe how Canada's emergency responders use technology: Report conducted by CATA and first responder agencies will look at issues ranging from police force BYOD policies to IT procurement Christine Wong, IT Business
August 31, 2012

They're the first people we call in an emergency. But how is technology changing the way Canada's first responders answer our calls for help?

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) is tackling that question by conducting a national study of technology needs and usage among Canada's fire, police and emergencymedical services (EMS) personnel. 

Although many Canadians can now communicate via mobile devices anywhere any time, for example, the same on-demand communications capabilities aren't necessarily being used by emergency personnel – at least while they're on the job, that is. 

A new study will look at how Canada's emergency responders use technology. (Photo: Shutterstock)

“Citizens hold high expectations that immediate conversations can take place and real-time information in a crisis can be relayed to them using an array of communication devices and platforms,” said Kevin Wennekes, CATA's vice-president of research in a news release on the study. “(Canadians) might be surprised to learn that in some parts of Canada, fire, police and EMS personnel in the same city cannot speak to one another on the scene unless they swap radios first.” 

The study has already identified over 100 different technologies used by Canada's first responders in the line of duty. One issue to be explored in the study is how the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is affecting both the expectations of citizens calling for emergency help and the ability of EMS personnel to respond to those calls. 

“Now almost every member of the (EMS) force own smartphones and/or tablets for personal use and many of them are bringing them to work and deploying them in the field,” Wennekes said. “Yet how does one track or record this from a chain of evidence or procedural point of view? If the smartphone is needed for evidence, what are the ramifications on the otherwise non-related personal information stored in the device?” 

The study will also look at generational differences in the way older EMS workers adopt to mobile technology compared with younger colleagues, the procurement process emergency forces use to buy technology, and the development of a new national broadband network devoted exclusive to public safety needs and services.  

Other bodies participating with CATA in the study include the Emergency Responder Testing and Evaluation Establishment (formerly called the Canadian Police Research Centre), the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, the Emergency Medical Services Chiefs of Canada, and over a dozen first responder forces from across Canada. 

Source | CATA