The evolution of The Emergency Services Show and why bringing people together is so important

Charlotte Prior, EST designer, shares her thoughts on this year’s Emergency Services Show and asks what has changed for her in the last 10 years of being involved in the show.

On arrival at the NEC it was pretty obvious that technology would be the star of the show. Taking over Hall 4, The Emergency Technology Show impressed from the start with the most futuristic welcome from Stormtroopers. Once inside I soon discovered that the initial wow factor continued with many exciting suppliers on display. From Hall 4 you could get a fantastic view of The Emergency Services Show in Hall 5, which felt more familiar but almost like it had grown up into a bigger faster paced version of the teenager it had been. This too was jam packed with businesses excited to showcase their new products and users hunting to find their next bit of kit.

The buzz of both halls seemed to be on a whole new level this year. This could have been down to the welcome from the stormtroopers, or from the brass band blasting out renditions of Lizzo’s ‘Feeling good as hell’ but on closer inspection it was clear to see that every supplier was excited to be there and thrilled to be part of this ever growing event.

The role of AI in the emergency services

The industry has evolved a huge amount. We know that it’s an ever-changing landscape with the immense advancements that suppliers unveil at the show each year. Before this year’s show I wondered if artificial intelligence would be taking over and people would be needed less. I did see a lot of technology but nearly all of it seemed to create jobs rather than take away.

We need people to operate, programme and think about where this tech can be used best. It all comes with its own unique set of hurdles to navigate and it will be the human brain, not one from AI, that will overcome them. It seems that key to progressing was in fact the combination of technology and people. This got me thinking that it doesn’t matter how far we’ve come with tech, we still have these old fashioned back to basic areas that will never go away.

Weather as the constant risk

Regardless of advances in technology, it was apparent we still have the same problems that we’ve had from the beginning of time: we can’t control the weather.

A reminder that mother nature is more powerful than all of us and a thorn in the side of a lot of tech on display at the show. Extreme weather was a topic I heard over and over. We are learning to become resilient, we are training for the worst and we are preparing for the extreme temperatures but weather seem a constant when talking about technology.

In seminars I heard about drones that will deliver medication for the NHS as long as it’s not too windy; training exercises in sub zero temperatures where equipment failed because of the cold; preparation for power outages after storms and the problems we have when fighting what seem to be ever increasing wildfires throughout the world.

It is timely then that The Met Office was at the show this year, now a category two responder, to give both humans and tech a fighting chance in our battle against the elements.

As I walked around the halls and I’d seen huge vehicles, I was educated on the importance of EV infrastructure, watched demonstrations of new equipment, petted service dogs, listened to seminars and spoke to many enthusiastic suppliers.

The human connection remains important

When you strip back the razzamatazz that welcomed us through the doors, it’s clear that the roots of this show still hold strong. The need for human connection is huge. Greetings, smiles, handshakes and laughter were the order of the day. Everywhere you looked people were happy and that real connection is not something you get on the end of a telephone. Watching real emotion and enthusiasm in people faces as they spoke in the seminars was enhanced by actually being there. Covid taught us that we can work from home and spend less time in the office, but what it also taught us is that we really thrive when we meet up and have a human connection.

My takeaways

What did I take from the show? I left feeling that the emergency services sector and all the futuristic technology is moving at an almighty fast pace. This year’s show was fantastic and I came away sure that The Emergency Tech Show will grow bigger and be full of tech that we could only dream about a few years back.

We need people coming together to really advance. The suppliers need to speak to the purchasers, they need to show their product face-to-face, they need to connect, not online or by telephone or through marketing campaigns but person to person. We need to share experience, share knowledge and learn from each others mistakes in order to move forward and that’s exactly what the shows gave each and every person that came through the doors.