As the use of wearable cameras grows within the emergency services industry, Edesix provides an insight into how these devices benefit the fire service today and future technology developments designed to improve processes and protect the community.
The influence of police body-worn cameras
Police-issue body-worn cameras have, in recent years, become an accepted and beneficial piece of equipment, used to gather unbiased evidence, protect officers and the public, as well as act as a deterrent to antisocial and aggressive behaviour. With such trials and subsequent force-wide roll-outs of wearable cameras deemed a success, it is no surprise that we’re now seeing interest in these devices trickling into other emergency services such as first responders and the fire service.
With devices available that can record for up to 14 hours, offer streaming and text alerts when activated, provide full audit trails of recorded data and the ability to securely redact, crop and share footage, these body-worn devices are ideal for those working on the front line.
However, the use case for such technology within the fire service, so far, has differed from that of police and security enforcement. Where police officers see wearable cameras as a mode for capturing evidence for prosecution, both first responders and the fire service are currently using them from a training and best-practice perspective.
The first fire service roll-out
In 2016, West Midlands Fire Service was the first service to adopt body-worn cameras, after a successful trial across ten of its fire stations using Edesix VideoBadge cameras, distributing them in early 2017 to their incident commanders.
With an outstanding response rate for emergencies in which people or buildings are in danger, West Midlands Fire Service has been praised for its operations. In order to maintain and improve upon this success, body-worn cameras have been implemented to allow more detailed accounts of incidents and emergencies to be recorded, in turn providing real-life learned techniques for training both new and experienced firefighters.
Councillor John Edwards, Chair of West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, publicly said: “We’re proud to be at the forefront of rolling out this technology. The cameras will help us to maintain excellent levels of service to the West Midlands. They will provide a valuable video resource to support learning and development and, ultimately, firefighter and public safety.”
Body-worn camera features
As with the police, both first responders and the fire service have been faced with challenges around privacy. How and when the cameras are used, as well as how footage is reviewed, stored and deleted are all key to ensuring an effective body-worn camera roll-out. Such policies and compliance are partly facilitated by the camera provider’s own software, using secure role-based login and access, automatic deletion policies and two-factor authentication to ensure that services are equipped to create user policies which adhere to their organisation’s approach to data protection.
With features such as live-streaming, HD recording, voice recording, incident bookmarking and a suite of accessories ensuring the device is secure and accessible for the wearer, body-worn cameras are ideal for capturing real-time footage of firefighters attending incidents. This footage can then be offloaded, post-event, and reviewed for discussion around best practice and process improvements when required.
In 2017, the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) embarked on a trial of body-worn cameras, also aimed at best practice and training facilitation. Neil Gordon, leading the project for SFRS, said: “Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s vision of the benefits for body-worn video is to overtly capture video and voice data during the course of their duty such as at operational incidents, exercises and other appropriate operational training events. The introduction of body-worn video is solely for the development of our service, enhancing our already high-standard incident decision-making to protect life and property.”
The future of wearable cameras in the fire service
As trials progress, and with further fire services adopting the technology, it can be assumed that the spectrum of use cases will grow. We’re already seeing services such as Durham and Darlington trialling body-worn cameras as a deterrent to violence against firefighters. With statistics reported that firefighters are attacked more than ten times a week in the UK, the evidence capture and instant response that wearable cameras enable, not to mention the mere deterrent of wearing a recording device, cannot be ignored.
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