The Grill: John A. Benanti and Donald Stanton

Technology's role in fighting fires and saving lives

Fire trucks remain the iconic image of any fire department, but firefighters -- like all other workers -- are relying on more technology than that to be effective on the job. Certainly, IT will never replace water hoses when it comes to dousing a blaze, but computers are increasingly being deployed on the scene, too. That's certainly the case at the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), one of the largest fire departments in the world. Here, Deputy Commissioner of Technology and Support Services John A. Benanti and Assistant Commissioner Donald Stanton talk about how technology fits into the operations at FDNY.

Can you give me an overview of the technology FDNY uses? Benanti: There's an awful lot of technology here. We work on mainframe services. We support our CAD dispatch, data warehouses, well over 100 applications, Unix and Linux servers. We now have kiosks in our fire stations and EMS stations for firefighters to go online.

Tell me about the Fire Department Operations Center (FDOC). Stanton: It's built out with IT and radio capabilities. Before 9/11, it was more of a notification center. But right now, we get video feeds into the center. We get helicopter feeds from NYPD. We have agreements with a number of news stations to supply their raw helicopter feeds. We have connections to the [Metropolitan Transportation Authority] and high-tech connections to Homeland Security.

Benanti: For example, [during the 2009 landing of a jet on the Hudson River], we were able to watch all the feeds and were monitoring operations from the FDOC.

Stanton: We have a lot of different people who could be involved in a rescue operation. We had people on the scene managing the incident, but we were able to, from here, look at the feeds and see how we were picking up people. People here might have been able to see something that you couldn't pick up on the scene. In a mass casualty incident, we now can track patients from the site to when they get to the emergency room.

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