Civic News
Apps / Data / Municipal government / Public safety / Technology

This mobile app will change how Philly firefighters protect the city

Built by the city's mapping staff, the app gives firefighters access to real-time data that was previously not available on-the-go.

Members of Engine 38 push a fire truck inside their new station. (Photo by Kait Privitera for the City of Philadelphia.)

A new internal mobile app that gives Philadelphia’s firefighters access to real-time data will change how they protect the city, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said, and it will hopefully help protect them, too.

“The first line of defense is not the hose line,” Ayers said: it’s all the information about a fire and its surroundings.

When firefighters access the city-built app on the computers inside their fire trucks, they’ll be able to see:

  • 3D and aerial images of the building in question, plus the surrounding neighborhood, which can help them decide how to attack the fire.
  • if the building in question has received any violations (Did the city mark it imminently dangerous? Is it scheduled for demolition?)
  • the locations of other fire trucks around the city, since each of them are GPS-enabled
  • where the nearby fire hydrants and water mains are located, which can help them decide which hydrants to use when fighting the fire
fire dept app

The new Fire Department mobile app offers oblique images of buildings.

Previously, firefighters had access to this data, pulled from many city sources, but it wasn’t all available in one place and it wasn’t immediately accessible. Firefighters would have to call the fire communications office to get certain kinds of information.

“This is the first app that takes [the data] off the desktop and onto the mobile device,” said Kevin Thomas, the Police Department’s director of research and analysis who helped build the app.

Aside from helping firefighters in the field, the app will be useful in training and creating on-site strategy, Ayers said. He also believes it will help keep firefighters safe, a comment that carries weight, given the tragic deaths of three firefighters since 2012.

fire dept app 2

In another view of the app, firefighters can see hydrants, city violations, current locations of other fire trucks and more.

The app launched last week to one battalion of firefighters, who will beta-test it and provide feedback to the developers who built the tool. Since city developers built the app, they’ll be able to tailor it to the feedback they receive, Thomas said.

The creation of the app is also a testament to the city’s data and its accessibility, at least internally. The app uses data from sources like Licenses & Inspections and the Water Department, as well as the city’s aerial and oblique images of Philadelphia.

Thomas built the tool with Paul Woodruff, the city developer behind the fire hydrant app that helps get fire hydrants fixed one week faster.

Companies: City of Philadelphia / Philadelphia Fire Department

Before you go...

Please consider supporting to keep our independent journalism strong. Unlike most business-focused media outlets, we don’t have a paywall. Instead, we count on your personal and organizational support.

3 ways to support our work:
  • Contribute to the Journalism Fund. Charitable giving ensures our information remains free and accessible for residents to discover workforce programs and entrepreneurship pathways. This includes philanthropic grants and individual tax-deductible donations from readers like you.
  • Use our Preferred Partners. Our directory of vetted providers offers high-quality recommendations for services our readers need, and each referral supports our journalism.
  • Use our services. If you need entrepreneurs and tech leaders to buy your services, are seeking technologists to hire or want more professionals to know about your ecosystem, has the biggest and most engaged audience in the mid-Atlantic. We help companies tell their stories and answer big questions to meet and serve our community.
The journalism fund Preferred partners Our services

Join our growing Slack community

Join 5,000 tech professionals and entrepreneurs in our community Slack today!


How to encourage more healthcare entrepreneurship (and why that matters)

Track power outages with ‘Is PECO Okay,’ a new site from the Philly dev behind ‘Is SEPTA F*cked’

9 inclusivity recommendations for tech workplaces from Philadelphia youth

Welcome to Camp Apple Intelligence

Technically Media