Today, Drew welcomes Kevin Sofen, host of the Smart Firefighting podcast, to the show. They discuss the intersection of fire prevention and emergency response, the impact of new technology on all aspects of fire protection, and why there’s often so much resistance to new tech.

Kevin shares his history in fire protection and what inspires him to discuss new technologies being used by fire departments across the country. They talk about the different approaches of proactive fire prevention and reactive emergency response and how technology plays a role in both.

However, Drew and Kevin cover the impact of technology on more than just operations. They discuss recruitment and retention challenges across fire protection and how technology can support understaffed organizations and aid recruitment in the long-run.

Tune into this episode to see how all aspects of fire protection are interconnected and impacted by technology–if we’re willing to adopt it.

 

  • 00:10 – Introduction
  • 02:00 – Kevin’s background in fire protection
  • 05:32 – What’s holding fire protection industry back?
  • 09:07 – Why is the industry slow?
  • 12:51 – Drones and their role in fire and life safety
  • 17:38 – Recruiting in fire
  • 24:30 – The International Association of Fire Chiefs
  • 31:40 – Specialized vehicles in fire prevention
  • 40:06 – Conclusion

 

Full Transcript

 

Drew Slocum:
This is episode 61 of the Fire Protection Podcast, powered by Inspect Point. Today my guest is Kevin Sofen. Kevin is a fellow podcaster. He does a lot of different things within the firefighting community, but he’s the host of the Smart Firefighting Podcast, but he’s heavily involved in Cent integrated tech as well as Darley, a firefighting equipment company as well involved in the International Association of Fire Chiefs. And he was great to have on, obviously a fellow podcaster, but to talk about kind of the fire service and issues they’re having, obviously with recruitment, adoption of technology, what technology they’re starting to use. It was really cool to learn about some of the drone technology and some of the wildland wildlife vehicles or wildfire vehicles out there that’s coming out to the market. And yeah, he has a great perspective from that side of the fire industry and yeah, it was really cool to get to chat with him. So onto the podcast here with Kevin Sofen. Kevin, thank you. Thank you for joining the Fire Protection Podcast today.

I know we talked, I don’t know, probably a few years back at this point, right? Been a few moons and glad that we reconnected on LinkedIn. Yeah, I know we chatted about some smart technology a few years back, and I really like what you’re doing with a variety of different avenues. So I guess let’s introduce you. Who are you? Why are you here? What are you up to these days? 

Kevin Sofen:
Right on. Yeah, I think we crossed paths maybe sometime between 2014 and 2019 at some fire protection show, whether it was AFSA, NFSA, NFPA, or all the above. But yeah, my name’s Kevin Sofen. I live in Chicago, Illinois. I had the opportunity to work for WS Darley Company for 11 years, had led a lot of innovation efforts there from some of our fire sprinkler system tank and pump system initiatives that was tied with the FEMA TPS project to driving commercialization of virtual reality training systems, drones and robotics for public safety to wearables.

And in the past year, I’ve had some changes. We’re still connected with Darley and working closely on a tactical vehicle program for redundant resilient communications, but also have started working with the International Association the Fire Chiefs, to help plan out their technology Summit International, really looking at all different aspects of tech across public safety. And most recently has joined as a director of business development for Ascent integrated tech who is leading and doing indoor localization for first responders. So understanding the x, y, and Z axis of first responders inside GPS denied environments. And I guess under that is one of our kind of kindred spirits is I had started the Smart firefighting podcast, a round table in 2017, and that’s been just one of my passion projects, pet projects, whatever you call it that I just enjoy selfishly learning about what other people are doing around tech and public safety and had the chance to host a lot of really cool people in the podcast and always appreciate fellow podcasters supporting fellow podcasters. So Drew, it’s a pleasure and honor to be here today with you. 

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, I’m going to have to add you to the competitor list of podcasting. Posted about it yesterday on the fire protection side. There’s only a few of us, and we chatted a couple weeks ago of how many episodes you’ve done and a couple of the other podcasters you’ve had on. So it’s good to get the information out, to get obviously a lot of great comments from the community saying, Hey, keep this up and let’s do some more fun stuff. 

Kevin Sofen:
Absolutely. And I think one thing I took from that conversation is continue to find that overlap between fire safety, public safety, and the fire protection community. We’re all fighting the same fight, just a little bit different from proactive to reactive and both vice versa, reactive and proactive approaches.
So I think this is a really cool opportunity to continue to overlap and see some of the ways that we can all support each other in the same mission. 

Drew Slocum:
It seems like stuff comes together a lot in the last, you talk a lot about firefighting and just the fire technology where we’re on the more of the system side and the contractor service providers facilities doing that work. A lot of that data is starting to flow directly down to the fire prevention bureaus and eventually down to the first responders through some of that technology. Now it’s slow adoption in my mind and compared to other industries as well. But it’s starting to happen.
I know you recently chatted about this. I guess, what are the holdups on technology out there within the fire service and the authorities in jurisdiction? 

Kevin Sofen:
There’s a lot of commonalities I think between the fire protection and fire safety industry and that mindset. I personally hate that phrase, but this is the way we’ve always done it. And especially when thinking of just the modern day context of buildings and fire safety, it’s like always, you mean a hundred years, maybe 150 years always done. That would be at the dawn of time. So just because it has been done for 50 or a hundred years doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right way. It was the way that something was done, but we’re kind of being forced to change whether we like it or not, due to some of the challenges of some of the new conveniences that have existed that have come to our life from one of the biggest ones probably being lightweight construction materials.

What has that done in terms of how we’ve needed to address fire safety from the fire engineering side to first responders who often left holding the bag and just had needed to show up and all of a sudden the flashover time and the heat, everything went from it normally was 10, 12 minutes to, it’s like two or three minutes now. So I think that was probably one of the biggest ones. Lithium ion batteries, solar panels, just lithium ion cars, inside car parks. These are all challenges that impact the entire community. And so I think there’s been a force to change, but I think one of the challenges to change has always been, and I hate saying this, but sometimes I just have to drop it in the fire service. They say a hundred years of tradition unimpeded by progress and that firefighters hate. Two things change and the way things are, I know it’s terrible cliche quotes, but they do give some context in the sense that there is sometimes this reluctance to do anything different because the easy answer is always to say no, and just to do what you’ve always been doing to do something different.

Kevin Sofen:
You might get in trouble, you might get fired, but it takes a lot of courage and valor to do something different or to adopt something new, especially if there’s not a standard yet. And frankly, this is probably one of the biggest overlap opportunities dealing with the pace of change and how standards can keep up and how standards shouldn’t be a wet blanket of driving innovation, but instead how standards can really drive innovation. And I think developing standards historically have taken a long time. And that’s something that my mentor, Gary Breeze has talked a lot about. It’s less so about how great this technology is, but more so looking at the example of thermal imaging cameras. How can we look at from when they first came on the scene to when they started getting used by adopters to when they started to get some small wins to training academy, starting to teach and train on it to where their standards went into where they become mainstream.

That whole process took, I dunno, 20 years. How do we make that process three years for technology that’s relevant? So that’s a challenge that we all face and it requires.gov, dot edu, dot org, dot com, all of these different institutional partners and no right or wrong answer, but there’s I guess some high level context terms of some of the ideas around change and some of the challenges that we face. 

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, it’d be interesting to see that. NFPA is a good org and they have a lot of great standards and codes, but they don’t get adopted as fast amongst the jurisdictions. And I always wondered, yeah, I know things traditionally move slow within the organizations, but why can’t that move faster?
I know there’s a whole process, a review process on all that, but why can’t we get ahead of it? The standards are out before they’re out in plenty of time, so why can’t we start moving ahead with some of those? And again, I don’t know if there’s any change. 

Kevin Sofen:
I don’t know about one hot take. I think just in regards to when you go to trade shows or whatever, it’s like everyone’s always busy. Everyone’s got a bunch of emails, everyone just kind of like, they sound excited when they’re in the event or during the day, but you get back to your computer and you got stuff to do and you got your immediate task at hands and thinking beyond today and next week and even next month is insurmountable, and you’ve got your family, you’ve got your kids. And so it takes a lot of heart and courage to be thinking 1, 5, 10, 30 years ahead. And that’s where it takes some of those visionaries that are helping to set the stage for tomorrow and the future, which again, easier said than done, but definitely something that we need to continue to keep beating the drums on. 

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, for sure. It’s starting to happen. Technology adoption is a little bit faster, at least on the software side, both in the fire service and in the fire protection side. But there’s some new stuff out there with NFP. I’m on the standard for remote inspections, which is a tool for the fire service and the prevention bureaus essentially to do inspections remotely. And it’s kind of a template for that.
And how are the template’s there? It’s in all the other NFPA standards, but how do we get essentially the A HJ needs to adopt it at that point, right? And it’s not going to be a nationwide thing. It’s not going to be, it could be a state thing, but the template’s there, how do we push it at a jurisdictional level to allow it? And COVID helped it, but it kind of lost, I feel like it’s lost a little bit with some of the remote technologies, drones. I know you’re big into the drone sector, right? 

Kevin Sofen:
Yeah, yeah. I mean, technology adoption is a major challenge no matter where you skin it, but I do think drones are one really good example of this that didn’t exist. There’s standards that were created and now standards are quickly being evolved and adopted to meet public safety’s demands. And there’s a whole other conversation about restricting which drones can be used.

The whole anti-China drone conversation. Blue UAS. It’s a big issue right now because there’s a lot of first responders that are using some of the products, particularly from DJI and Altel, but there’s a big ban in the works in certain states where you can’t fly them. And it’s creating a big challenge because some of the American manufacturers don’t have the similar capabilities. Not to the whole other conversation. We could go down that rabbit hole. I won’t. But I think just from the public safety community, there have just been a lot of small working groups that have driven some of the, again, the different NFPA standards, which are existing, I’m blanking on the drone standard. I want to say 2,400, but that might be incorrect, but Oh, is there an NFPA drone standard? Yeah, there is a drone. Wow, that’s awesome. And FPA put out a whole drone training program.

Oh wow. There’s a lot of difference, again, the phrase of you don’t rise to the occasion, you fall at your lowest level of training. And I think all first responders can agree that more training is good. And I think with drones, you’re just seeing it’s not a toy. It is a tool. And the most important thing is safety. And Michael Sha from FA talks about that, what’s on the first slide? Safety. And a lot of the guys from FDMY who are working on this, it all comes down to safety for the operator, but the end user and drones are a very good example of a new technology that is being integrated at speed responsibly ethically. And it is happening. And I continue to be optimistic about the right technology in the right way for the right users safely, ethically, to help first responders save lives and property.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah. You brought up a funny story of, is it somewhere in New York? Is it the FDNY using them for shark warnings? Was that shark? 

Kevin Sofen:
Yeah, shark detection. I mean, you can put a drone, really the drone is a delivery mechanism for cameras and sensors and also can drop payloads. And yeah, FDMY is using it for early detection of sharks and using it as a notification method to let people know that we humans do not own the water. We share the water with the sharks, and sharks sometimes are hungry. So yeah, early detection. And also they have a cool, they’ve developed this drop payload mechanism to drop life jackets to people who are in distress. 

Drew Slocum:
Oh, interesting. 

Kevin Sofen:
Austin ES, Austin Fire and Austin EMS is about delivering blood, delivering insulin, delivering very kind of lightweight medication and stuff under a pound to be able to get it to places.
Especially when there was a time where it was a winter storm, they were able to get a car up there and the gentleman needed insulin and they dropped insulin to this and dropped it in and dropped it over there and that’s nuts got insulin and off they went. So simple things like that where there’s efficiency gains and mostly as well, not putting first responders in harm’s ways. And one other example of a land robot, FTMY has the dog, they call it spot. Yeah, spot, yeah, it’s a bit expensive. It doesn’t make sense for most departments yet, but if you’re talking about extreme hazmat scenarios or kind of a disaster post-disaster rescue scenario and you need to go and see what chemicals are down there or you need to go see if anyone’s alive down there before you put people at harm’s risk, put some sensors and some cameras on this robot dog and it’s a couple hundred thousand dog, but it’s a better use of tire resources than sending a team of four people in that you don’t know what the situation is yet.
So some pretty cool applications that are evolving and really driving the industry forward.

 

Drew Slocum:
I want to hear the first story of SPOT going in and making a pretty big impact. I think once that, obviously you’ve seen him debuted, I think he debuted last year, year before. 

Kevin Sofen:
Yeah. I can connect you to Frank and Mike from FDNY or drone team guys. Oh, that’d be cool. They’re doing it. They’re just in it. FDNY, obviously they’re a little bit of a unique department. They’re just in it and they are some of just the most welcoming, awesome guys that are great to work with and really just driving the industry forward and setting standards, setting the standard on how to use drones responsibly and ethically.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, speaking of, I’ll have to definitely connect with them. I got down the drone wormhole with you. It’s cool to talk about.

Kevin Sofen:
Well on that, for giving a smart firefighting plug, we’re in the middle of a 20 part mini series from the Texas Robotics Summit. So if you’re interested in drones, we got 20 episodes over the course of the next 10 weeks coming out. 

Drew Slocum:
Wow. Yeah, I’m definitely going to have to be on that. And yeah, for sure. I saw that we’re getting into the security side as well other than just fire. And there’s a lot of drones on the security side and it’s, you see black mirror and stuff with the security dogs and you’re like, I know that obviously they’re used for good, but you see them and you’re like, oh man, you kind of get just a dark look at ’em potentially because of some movies and whatever. Oh, it’s terrifying. Anyway, no, I was going to transition saying I think DNY came up with something last year, it might’ve been the year before, just tough time recruiting.
And you had a good round table webinar on this yesterday and recruiting in the fire service. So obviously we see the similar signs in the fire protection industry, but I guess summarize what’s happening within the fire service and potential resolutions to it as well. 

Kevin Sofen:
Yeah. Well, by no means am I an expert in this conversation. I’m more of a practitioner that loves to talk with other people. But I was fortunate to have Jerry Strike, Heather Marquez and Dave Robertson on this round table yesterday, and we actually have a YouTube link and a learning document that summarizes it. But a couple of the quotes that really resonated with me was potential fire service members don’t want more, they want better. And no doubt even what you’re seeing sometimes where fire departments are offering a 10, 20, 50, $60,000 signing bonus and it’s still not working. But I think oftentimes first potential first responders, they want kind of what you see in a lot of other job industries, like the ability to have a growth trajectory, the ability to have a good culture, the ability to not sign a death sentence that they’re going to guarantee they’re going to have cancer or mental health issues.

And granted, those are very powerful things that, like I said, and I don’t say that lightly, I apologize to anyone if I disrespected you on that, but I think I see some of these cancer rates and whatnot. But a lot of it stems from culture, a lot of it stems from making, if you can empower a good top down culture just like any company and allow people to feel safe and give people the ability to move up in the organization, give people the chance to advance, they’re going to want to stay on. But I think just one of the biggest things that was talked about yesterday is this mindset of some of the old school tactics and mindset of back in my day, this is a bunch of these fairies and whatnot. But I saw this one quote, John Tippett from the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation had mentioned in the presentation, and it was this quote he put up on there on this presentation, and then I’m butchering the quote, but it ultimately said of this generation just doesn’t know what hard work is.They’re books, babies, no manners, don’t even look in the eyes, blah, blah, blah. And he sort of said, he is like, when do you think this quote was said? And you would’ve thought it was like the boomers talking about millennials, but it was a quote from this guy in 1904 talking about, and it sort of got me thinking about, I think there was always this sort of constant evolution of like, Hey, this isn’t the way we did it and this next generation, they just don’t get it. And I think it’s just that mindset. That is it. You just have to be constantly evolving history. The human’s existence here in the world is a speck in time, but even our speck in time stuff changes so much. Just think about the sixties to seventies, the eighties, the nineties to two thousands. Stuff changes, cultures changes, and the fire service and fire protection agencies are no different in terms of how you need to approach recruitment.

Kevin Sofen:
And I think you had mentioned too that from having labor and people to do work, it’s definitely a challenge in certain ways, but I think it’s forcing entities to become more efficient, to think about how can you change the work? How can you go to maybe a hybrid work model? How can you approach contractors in a new way? And I think probably one of the biggest quotes too was we need to turn the mirror in on ourselves and have that introspection and not just kind of point the finger and be like, you’re the problem. You’re the one that’s doing it. But it’s kind of like, no, it’s actually you are the problem just as much as you think they’re the problem. And I think looking at yourself in the mirror and asking yourself the hard questions was a big takeaway yesterday, and there’s a lot more to it.

The learning document that I’d love to share with you has a lot of good quotes and specific examples from people who have participated. But obviously some of the other things too are the way that we structure shifts and the way that we structure incentives and things of that nature. But a lot of it ultimately stems back to culture as being one of the biggest obstacles, but also opportunities to continue to drive further recruitment to meet the needs of the fire service. 

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, I think the culture really matters, Ned. I think it’s no matter what industry you’re in, it is a culture. It’s not about the dollars. Dollars is obviously probably still number one. It’s why everybody works, but right up there is having a voice, being comfortable where having flexible working potential as well. So again, I think, and that’s why it’s funny, we just hired, we’re getting, we’re putting somebody into VP of culture to try to make us better as a company internally. And yeah, it’s kind of cool to see that. And again, I think I see a lot of, in the fire protection realm, there’s a lot of these equity roll-ups, right? There’s a bunch of companies buying up all these groups, but they’re trying to hold onto that talent, right? Because there’s a lot of times that they exit and go do other things. So hey, what’s going to mold them together? And culture is a big piece of that and wanting to work there and be successful upward mobility. 

Kevin Sofen:
So it’s not the madman generation anymore where it’s just kind of suits and ties and cubicles. 

Drew Slocum:
I mean, it’s just, look at me, I got a backwards hat on and I love it.

Kevin Sofen:
I’m just wearing a Lulu shirt. I like it because it is easy. But yeah, I think it’s just times a change and you can kind of sit there and try and go backwards and gosh, we could talk about some other things having to do with going backwards and humanity, but I think just got to embrace that culture change time is always the one thing that’s definitely constant is time. And we can’t just sit here and act oblivious to the fact that stuff changes. And if your industry is not embracing change and trying to hold onto the past, you’re going to become irrelevant. 

Drew Slocum:
Sure, sure, sure.

I know the Western Fire Chiefs Association, I don’t know the International Association as well. So is that made up of obviously anywhere globally? And I guess what are they doing? You mentioned something about their technology summit, I guess, what is the big push there from international? 

Kevin Sofen:
Yeah, it’s called the Technology Summit International and in 2022, I had the fortune to moderate a few panels there, and then it kind of helped spark my entrepreneurial endeavor to start my own initiative to ultimately start working for them in a modified capacity last year. And it was the Technology Summit International hosted in Irving, Texas in December last year and had about 90 speakers, 45 speaking events. And then within TSI, we have kind of a subcommittee called the tech council, and we have six groups, one focused on common operating picture, another one on wearables, another one oned, unmanned drones, and then health and wellness data.


So we have a bunch of these groups, but this year the initiative is sort of working closely with all these different tech groups about your respective initiatives like wearables. And then each group is going to help create virtual events about what are the challenges and opportunities with it, and then ultimately create a publication or some type of initiative that’s going to be posted by the end of the year and then drive the content at TSI this year. And one of the big things we’re really focused on at TSI this year is trying to allow for less of, Hey, listen to me and you take notes, but more of this was the problem, this was how we implemented a solution and here’s how you could do it too. And then let’s have a workshop about it. Because I think sometimes you see one department that’s done a great job adopting, for example, San Antonio Fire Department Deputy Chief Brian Norris has done a great job implementing this EMS technology where it’s when a call comes in, now, I think they use something called PulsePoint, maybe it’s UK based company, but when a call comes, it allows them to be able to click a link and open up a two-way, FaceTime between the dispatcher and the person who’s calling and the amount of stories in the videos that they show of very basic things of someone had a heart attack, someone’s daughter gets to give birth in their bathroom, just someone is bleeding from the head, whatever. But if pictures, whatever is a thousand words, a video, oh, totally is a billion or whatever phrase that is, and just how they are using this, it is cut back on unnecessary resources. It’s helped improve patient outcomes. And so many people are like, Brian, how do I do that? So what toilet things this year are, we’re going to focus on how I built this. But yeah, I, ffc is an awesome organization bringing people together from around the world and it’s very much aligned on the Chiefs, which kind of trickles down to the entire fire service and some really great individuals that have helped lead Jeff Dolan, Dan Muncy, Corey Clayborn, and Scott Roseberry, people I’m working with really closely to help drive these initiatives and just some of the best people I’ve had the chance to work with. And it’s going to be formally announced hopefully in the next week or so, but it’s definitely, it’s looking like it’s early December TBD, exact dates and location, but hopefully in the next couple of weeks we’re going to have some clarity and it’d be great to, frankly, I’d love to get a fire protection piece there about the bridging the gap between fire protection and fire safety.
And again, from the data creation side and the data, creating data, ingesting data, visualizing data, pre-planning stuff, there’s so much overlap there that I’d love to connect with you more about how we might be able to pull something together on that. 

Drew Slocum:
And that’s where there’s a lot of data now and nobody’s been able to wrangle it in of we have all this building and system data and no, a lot of times it does get to the fire services and there’s platforms that do translate that data over and hey, if there’s a fire pump down or a fire alarm panel off and the first responders show up and they know exactly what’s going on, but I think there’s still a little gap there and that’d be interesting to get involved a little bit there. 

Kevin Sofen:
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I know one thing that maybe for your audience to keep an eye out is the nearest program that is coming online, Dr. Lori Moore, Merrill and her team and Rebecca Theresa, they’re just doing an awesome job implementing and kind of bringing this new data system to life. And that’s one of the biggest challenges is just everyone hates reporting everyone, but a lot of people hate doing reporting and it’s just like a pain in the butt. It takes a lot of time, but Naris is taking all these different data sets and creating a common language and making it easy to ingest data and output data to streamline reporting. I think previously with the MFI system, if you ask someone from the MFI system, what’s the largest cause of fire in America? And according to the data, it’s unknown just because it’s really the easiest button to click. And so I think there’s oftentimes there’s a big opportunity for NRIs and I think the building, how do you spell NRIs? N-E-R-I-S with USFA, and it’s also been closely working with UL FSRI, but I think there’s definitely a lot I’d love to jam on with that. And one thing you did touch on, I just want to hit on that, is there’s so much some of these sensors that are in the buildings, and I think I would encourage and challenge everyone in the building safety about how can more of that data be made more readily available to first responders? Just being able to know what’s going on at the building before we get there and what are some of the challenges that exist. And then one other thing that I would challenge, and I’ve been in the weeds with the integrated tech, is really thinking about humans as sensors. And when you put body-worn sensors on first responders, being able to understand who is, how are they doing and what the operational environment is like and how that can be relevant to different fixed structures. There’s a lot of operational and efficiency gains that can be had there for both fire protection and fire safety sides and it’d be great to continue to unpack and connect the dots on that. 

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, we’re around the corner or right around the corner of, there’s some iot technology, internet of things, technology out there. Again, it’s in the standards, but it’s not being used as much, but there’s some pretty cool ideas to do that and to pass that data because a lot of times it’s not going to go through the regular code reporting, but if there’s a way for that to get up to the AHJ, we just need to bridge that gap and we’d love to be a sounding board there if need be. 

Kevin Sofen:
Yeah, man, that’d be awesome.

Drew Slocum:
So the final thing I wanted to hit you with is this cool project you have with Darley who you work for and some of the wildland vehicles. And I see a lot of these new SUVs and off-road vehicles around town, people driving on the beach around here. But explain, I guess what you’re doing, you’re still doing with Darley and your partnership

Kevin Sofen:
For sure. Yeah, and Darley has been awesome, and they’ve been one of the founding sponsors of the Firefighter Fighting podcast and actually an investor into Ascent and just really good energy with Darlie, an amazing fourth generation family owned company. But one of the initiatives I’m still working on with Darley is that about a hundred years ago, Henry Ford knocked on the foundation of the founder of Darley WS Darley, and said, Hey, we want to build a fire truck on the model T and so the other companies in the industry that were selling fire trucks at that time or custom chassis, pretty expensive in the couple thousand dollars range. Darlene and Ford came together with a front mounted pump. We got a picture of it actually at our plant. We might have a picture of it here that I can show here in a second, but we built a fire truck for like 650 bucks. So pretty remarkable, kind of pulling this together, being able to have that. I’m going to find a photo here that I’ll pull up in the second, but so Ford and Darley had this alignment building a firetruck together a hundred years ago, and then a hundred years later, Ford came to us with their Bronco wildland initiative and said, Hey, wildfires are becoming a big issue. Bronco and Ford, the Bronco wildland fund wants to do something and the Bronco is a great vehicle, but it is limited in weight and it doesn’t really make sense to be a firetruck.They actually had done something like that on an earlier project with Filson, but we thought, Hey, the Bronco is not going to be equipped with a fire pump in a fire tank and fire equipment, but what it really can be equipped for is to be a tactical command vehicle, a tactical vehicle program where it’s something, it’s equipped with the latest and greatest communications equipment that allows you to be able to maintain communications no matter where you are anywhere in the country. And so we worked closely with Microsoft who had developed a similar program, and Microsoft did this because they wanted to showcase the cloud. It’s hard to kind of talk about the cloud, but you can only use the cloud if you have access to data. And so the core of this vehicle, and I’m going to pull up two photos here super quick. I know you said I could share a screen here, so I’m just going to download this one photo, pull it up. Bear with me here really quick. All right, so I’m going to share my screen really quick so you can, is that cool if I share a screen? 

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, yeah, go for it. 

Kevin Sofen:
All right. Mention this too. So here we go. I’m just going to do the whole computer. All right. So you can see my screen now. Yeah, this was at the Chicago Auto Show just a couple weeks ago, but on the left there, that’s actually the first Darley Ford firer, the little front mount of pump 1926, sold for 650 bucks back in the day, 20 years later. Here’s this tactical command vehicle program, and you can see kind of on the top, and I’ll get into the technology here. This is actually in the back. This is sort of the core of what’s happening. It’s sort of the size of a suitcase. Before you needed to have one of these large RVs that was 50 feet long to be able to have communication technologies. But the core of this technology here on the left is a company called dejero. And what this is doing is it’s taking three different networks at T-Mobile, Verizon, and blending them together to create one common IP address. So as you’re going from one part of Texas to the other, and T-Mobile’s good to hear. And at t here, Verizon’s here, it’s blending ’em all together and creating the strongest possible network. And when that doesn’t exist, I’ll pull in here. You zoom in a tiny bit, you see that white antenna at the top, that’s a satellite antenna. And so as the operator, you’re not thinking about changing networks. It’s just actively changing for you. So then here also this orange component from a company partner called Haifa, that’s mesh networking. So you take that little orange node and you can go up to a mile away line of sight to be able to take that same level of connectivity that exists in the Bronco and be able to have it a mile away. And here’s sort of some other cool hero photos. That’s a good one. Yeah, this one’s pretty cool. This one. So one of the one’s going to the National Park Service, the other one to the Bureau of Land Management. But the core is that this is an everyday vehicle. This is not something that requires excessive amounts of training and an excessive amount of experience. Do you know how to turn a car on? Great, you know how to use this vehicle. And then the idea is that who here has a cell phone? Like everyone? Actually one example I’ll give you really quick that paints the picture of what this does. I was at the Texas Robotics show and I asked, who here flies drones? Everyone raised their hand and I said, who here streams their drones with this one software called Drone Sense? Pretty much everyone raised their hand. Who here has connectivity issues? About 75% of the people raise their hand. Who here can stream their drone footage when they have connectivity issues? No one. The idea is that this vehicle allows you to have the best possible connectivity no matter where you are in the country, to be able to stream your drone footage, to be able to do interesting real time transcription of audio to be able to do real time teams, messaging, whatever it may be, but have the same level of connectivity that you do here on this podcast, but out in the wildland. And so that’s what we’re working on. Some pretty cool, here’s some cool images and just the Broncos look sweet. We’re now working on some expeditions and some explorers and can also, sorry for, also go on Tahoes and Durang. Those too. We’re a vehicle agnostic in a sense, but this is the core of the tech. It’s really been a joy to work with Ford and Microsoft and Darley on this. And it’s changing the fire service and how we connect and how we communicate, and it’s exciting to see how it comes to life. And it’s been a privilege to be a piece of the puzzle within this whole initiative. 

Drew Slocum:
It’s fun. I mean, it’s that, I mean, paired with a drone, that’s your answer right there, right? I can see that. Obviously you found an issue and obviously you guys solved it. That’s really cool. 

Kevin Sofen:
Yeah, and one of the things that further that is this thing called fail over, fail back where sometimes if you’re going from FU guys have two network connections and you just have Verizon, T-Mobile, and all of a sudden you go from one to the other, you can kind of have this a minute or time where you don’t have a network. So the value of, again, to Giro major, shout out to Giro, I think they are one of the most progressive, innovative companies in the country around public safety. They figured out this blending tech in a way it started as they were during the Canadian Olympics, I don’t know, X amount of years ago, 15 years ago, they were like, how can we stream the Olympic torch relay from Vancouver to Halifax? And they were like, well, we’ve got networks, but they’re all different across the country, and what if we blended them all together? And now, so they’re big within news anchors and newscasting, but now even getting very entrenched within public safety and shout out to them for really making a big difference all.

Drew Slocum:
It’s funny, my boys were watching the local weather channel the other day, and they have this, we have this, they call it Snow Monster whatever, but it’s a Jeep Wrangler that’s just got all this tech on it and it just goes out in the middle of a winter storm and it’s obviously more probably a marketing thing, but it kind of gives an analysis of, hey, stay off the roads or what the weather’s happening. And obviously they’re blending the great vehicle technology with the cloud technology and sensor technology. 

Kevin Sofen:
Yeah, no, it’s pretty cool to see it all and then how it’s used in practice, that’s for sure. Awesome. 

Drew Slocum:
Well, Kevin, thanks again. Love to continue to listen to the Smart Firefighting podcast. I’ll make sure everybody takes a listen. I know we’re a little bit different audience than you guys, but I’m really curious to see what you guys are doing on the drone side. And I think that’s going to eventually marry into some fire protection because you can actually do certain inspections with drones now for some of the NFPA standards, which should help it. It should help it out because you don’t have to go up on a lift anymore or look at different underwater stuff as well.

Kevin Sofen:
There’s underwater drones that they use, but yeah, likewise man. Well, it’s a pleasure to participate in your show, and I’d love to get you on the smart firefighting pod talking about some of the expertise and specialty that you have from a fire engineering fire protection standpoint and how that overlaps and has little Venn diagram collaboration in public safety. So let’s look to do that sometime in May- June time frame. And just kind of want to say, keep going. You’re doing a great job. I’ve enjoyed listening to a few of the episodes and I’ll look forward to continuing to cross paths. And we definitely got to talk about potentially collaborating with TSI in December about bringing the fire engineering and fire safety community to the first responder community. 

 

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, totally. Where can everybody find you?

 

Kevin Sofen:
Just LinkedIn is best. Kevin Sofen. You’ll find me on LinkedIn. I’m very responsive there. It’s the best way to find me. 

Drew Slocum:
Awesome. Well, we’ll see you around, man. Have a good one. Thank you for the opportunity. Yeah, appreciate it. This is episode 61 of the Fire Protection Podcast, powered by Inspect Point. Want to thank Kevin again for coming on the podcast. Please subscribe to the Smart Firefighter podcast, take a listen. I know they have some really cool stuff coming out and yeah, it was really cool to have ’em on and talk about some of the technology within the firefighting space. So thanks again and we’ll see you next time.