Author(s): Jesse Roman. Published on November 3, 2014.

SAFER Program
Frisco, Texas

In 2009, the city of Frisco, Texas, developed an innovative system called Situational Awareness For Emergency Response, or SAFER, which allows first responders to instantly access critical information about each of the school district’s 46 schools during an emergency. SAFER, developed by the city’s Information Technology Services Department, aggregates information from six databases and video feeds from strategically placed cameras inside each school into one user-friendly interface. The result is that Frisco’s first responders—while on the scene, in their vehicles, or at the station—can see real-time video, floor plans, aerial maps, lists of onsite hazardous chemicals, contact information for school administrators, water sources, and other pieces of critical information.

“It’s the most advanced tool that I’m aware of,” Mack Borchardt, chief of the Frisco Fire Department, said in a release on “It gives us an incredible amount of information instantly, and [firefighters and police officers] have the same view. In the case of the video, a picture is worth a thousand words.”

FireWatch Texas
College Station and Travis County, Texas
More than 1,000 square miles of forest near College Station, Texas, are being monitored using a new wildfire early-warning camera system. The technology, made by a German company, sells in the U.S. under the name FireWatch America. The cameras, mounted on towers above the tree line, can see smoke plumes of 10 meters by 10 meters, at distances of 10 miles or greater, according to company information. The sensors rotate in 10-degree increments, completing a 360-degree sweep of the area every eight to 12 minutes. During each rotation, sensors in the cameras capture and analyze images, transmit them back to a central command center, and alert authorities if possible fire events are detected, according to The system uses triangulation to pinpoint the exact location of the fire for first responders.

In June, the city council in Austin, Texas, unanimously approved a pilot program to install three of the high-tech cameras on towers around Travis County. Each camera costs $175,000, plus $200,000 in annual maintenance, according to published reports. Texas is reportedly the first U.S. state to utilize the cameras, which are being used in 13 countries.

Google Glass Project
Rocky Mount, North Carolina

Patrick Jackson, a firefighter in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, has designed an app for Google Glass, Google’s head-mounted computer—commonly worn as a visor or glasses—that could become a useful hands-free tool for firefighters in the field.

Jackson’s app lets firefighters give the computer verbal commands for maps and dispatch information, which is then beamed directly on the Glass device; firefighters see the critical information at the top corner of their vision. Future versions could include building layouts, information on potential building hazards, contact information, and more, Jackson recently told CNN. The Google Glass device can also shoot photos and video, allowing first responders to seamlessly film their response to a fire event or other emergency, which could aid subsequent incident investigations.

Jackson, a self-taught programmer, used a crowd-sourcing fundraising campaign to purchase the Google Glass device and developed the software in his free time.

Google Glass Project - Explorer Story: Patrick Jackson [through Google Glass]


Jesse Roman is a staff writer at NFPA Journal.