In the last decade, fire services around the world have started to notice both the challenges and opportunities of our information society. More and more information about their operating environment has been made available, either as open data or by in-government data-sharing initiatives, which has made clear fire services’ poor information position as well as the resulting potential unnecessary risks their firefighters take. The fear in the current information climate is that if a firefighter is injured or killed on the job, the investigation might show that the fire service knew in advance (but didn’t or couldn’t share) vital information that could have prevented the incident.
By collecting more and more information, fire departments are able to gain insight into fire safety in their operating environments. And if the fire service can tell that certain behavior results in a higher risk for fire fatalities, isn’t it their moral obligation to inform the public? To help achieve these goals, various initiatives have started in order to gain better understanding of fire behavior through fire investigation and research, share the knowledge and, more importantly, the definitions that come with it, and improve the understanding of the data and its usability in the context of fire service operations.
For the last seven years, Bart van Leeuwen has been working on linked data research in the fire service, which has resulted in some groundbreaking initiatives and research opportunities. Bart shares his experiences as a firefighter, explaining where the problems are, outlining where current solutions fall short, and demonstrating the potential of using publicly available data to inform the public and firefighters better. At every step, Bart emphasizes a pragmatic and self-reflective approach to data quality.
Bart van Leeuwen combines his 18 years of firefighting experience with 20 years of experience at Netage, a combination that allows him a new perspective on operational information delivery. With the ever larger amount of available data and changes in tactical approaches to firefighting, new and fresh thinking is needed. An “outside the box” thinker, Bart helps fire departments approach their information problems in a different way. In this process, technology is not the answer; it’s an enabler and should be treated as such. Currently, Bart is leading an innovation project that combines proven information management technology with new paradigms like semantic web technology to deal with information flows in a smarter and more agile way.
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