Fire Department Uses Technology To Efficiently Gather And Streamline Data

Saving Time And Potentially Saving Lives

Steven Lerner

Every enterprise has a need for data. The ability to quickly analyze data helps enterprises make important decisions and improve productivity. Regardless of industry or company size, data can be leveraged to create efficiencies, boost revenues and provide more customer intel.

A fire department in Illinois recently installed new technology to improve data collection and sharing capabilities. Whether or not your organization is in the public safety sector, every enterprise can benefit from learning about the importance of gathering and streamlining data.

The Need To Quickly Access Data

The International Services Office (ISO) is a firm that collects safety records of every municipal fire department across the United States. The ISO grades each fire department on a scale of one to 10, with one being the best. The most recent ISO rating for the Kankakee Fire Department in Illinois was two.

“When they rate you, they look at several aspects of the fire department, such as the number of personnel you have, they look at your ability to respond to fires and emergencies, they look at your radio communication, testing records, training records, and preplanned data,” said Damon Schuldt, fire chief for the Kankakee Fire Department.

Preplanning involves inspecting all structures within a jurisdiction for different aspects, such as the square footage of a building and the location of natural gas pipes near the building, to help firefighters when an actual emergency strikes. Schuldt admits that this was one area of the ISO rating that his fire department needed to work on. Out of all of the buildings in town, Schuldt said that his department had only finished preplanning about 12% of them.

With an upcoming ISO inspection, the Kankakee Fire Department needed to complete as much preplanning as possible. The problem was that the previous computer program used for preplanning data was antiquated. Schuldt said that the program was difficult and very time consuming. As a result, preplanning was sometimes neglected. Without preplanning, the firefighters lacked access to important information while en route to an emergency.

Implementing New Technology

Schuldt wanted to upgrade his department’s technology to allow for improved preplanning. He decided to turn to FlowMSP, which provides software to streamline the collection of preplanning data. FlowMSP was selected because a neighboring department had already integrated the technology, and this made it easier for the Kankakee Fire Department to share preplanning data with them before an incident strikes. Schuldt also said that the cost for FlowMSP, at about $2,000 a year, was reasonable, and the technology company has been receptive to suggestions from the firefighters.

The streamlined approach of the technology allows the firefighters to quickly input important information during the preplanning stage, such as details about the structure of a building, information about where the utilities are located in the building, and contact information. Firefighters are able to snap photographs of the building and upload it onto FlowMSP. The software measures the square footage of the building, and it determines how many gallons of water per minute it takes to theoretically put out a fire.

There is also a text box where firefighters can record vital information gathered during the preplanning inspection, such as the location of a diesel fuel tank in the building. Schuldt described the software as user-friendly for firefighters.

“I can preplan a building in probably less than 10 minutes,” Schuldt said. “It doesn't take long at all.”

The preplanning data helps firefighters quickly pull up the information about the building on a laptop or tablet while on the way to an emergency, including the locations of the nearest fire hydrants.It is a GPS-based software that displays all the buildings within a fire jurisdiction on a map.

The Results Of Using The New Technology

Thanks to the new technology, the Kankakee Fire Department collects more preplanning data quicker. After about three months of using the technology, Schuldt said that their organization is roughly halfway done with preplanning of all of the structures in the jurisdiction. By the end of September, the goal is to preplan for about 800 out of the 1,200 businesses in the area. They set aside time every Monday for preplanning in the field. The improved preplanning could help the fire department solidify its ISO rating.

This time-saving technology has provided the firefighters with more time to focus on other tasks within the department. More importantly, the firefighters now have access to information to help them act quickly during an emergency, which could save lives.

Schuldt recommends that organizations in all industries implement similar technologies to enhance data collection and accessibility. A fire company that is using technology to share data should serve as a wake up call to all organizations about the importance of this issue.

Reasons To Leverage Data Analytics

Organizations in different sectors will have unique reasons to harness data analytics. Supply chains might use data to help with machine maintenance, the hospitality industry might use data to improve the guest experience, and financial institutions could use data to determine the best time to pitch new offerings to customers. Digital transformation has made it possible for enterprises to use new technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT), to collect and analyze vast quantities of data. The collected data must be accessible and shared across a secure platform.

The problem is that some organizations may not realize the value of data. Some enterprises are facing a roadblock in the form of internal cultural resistance that doesn’t view data as an asset. These organizations see data as an IT project rather than a business-driven initiative. Recent surveys have noted that monetization is only a goal for a minority of enterprises with data, and those that have embarked on data monetization are only successful a fraction of the time. More organization must recognize the value of data, and they must leverage the right technology to streamline the process.