I have been a volunteer First Responder in my hometown of Ramsey, New Jersey since 1985. I ride with the Ramsey Rescue Squad, which performs what are known as “heavy rescue” services, including extricating people from cars, rescuing people trapped by debris or a fire and virtually any situation involving the need to be rescued.
Last night, I participated in a training scenario during which we practiced searching an empty house during a simulated fire. Once we arrived on the scene, my crew donned our turnout gear, put on our self-contained breathing apparatus, grabbed tools that might be helpful for forcing open doors and in our free hand, carried a very large flashlight. Our assignment: search the basement of this small two story wood-frame house for victims.
To simulate smoke conditions, the face masks of the breathing apparatus were covered in wax paper, which does a very good job of simulating a moderate smoke condition.
We arrived at the front door of the structure and were told that our job was to find and search the basement. And since we were simulating fire conditions, that search is performed on your hands and knees, while carrying the aforementioned equipment, keeping track of your team, remembering which way you came in (so you know how to get out) and, of course, figuring out how to get to the basement in a place you have never been before. As this house was empty, the path from the front door to the basement stairs was fairly clear. In reality, we would make our way through furniture and debris, not to mention the smoke and flames.
Each of us backed our way down the small wooden staircase on our hands and knees into the darkness of the basement, which was divided into several small rooms and spaces. Each team member searched in either direction, following the wall while reaching out with their opposite arm and tool to feel for victims. My job was to stay at the foot of the basement staircase to guide the team back and be ready to assist them. In a real fire situation, conditions can change in an instant and being in the basement means you likely have one means of egress, the staircase you came down. You might also actually find a victim, who you will have to carry or drag up the stairs and back out the front door.
As I watched my crew search, I thought about why were were searching in the first place — we’re looking for victims who need to be rescued, people who were likely conscious when the fire started, became trapped and then overcome by the heat or smoke. Everyday, firefighters and rescue teams arrive at emergencies with the need to search for people in need rescue, but it’s a terribly inefficient process.
As the CEO of a technology company that has built a solution (share911.com) that is dramatically improving this process, I am grateful that I am not just a “start-up founder” but a practitioner who can spend his Thursday night in his turnout gear, carrying tools and searching the basement, to experience the exact problem we set out to solve.
How do we solve it? Simple. We connect the people inside the building with the first responders who show up to rescue them. Share911 is an emergency social network that enables the people who are trapped to use their mobile device to check-in and share their exact location inside the building with the firefighters and rescue personnel who can now see exactly where they need to go, instead of searching blind, reducing the time it will take to get to them while reducing unnecessary risk for the first responders.