The Cottleville Fire Protection District in St. Charles County, Missouri purchased Emergency Reporting Fire/EMS reporting and records management software in July of 2019. Assistant Chief/Fire Marshal Ryan Roberts says that ER’s “Feature Suggestions” option was among the many attributes that cemented their decision to purchase ER software. The Feature Suggestions option is located in the Customer Help Center, under the Community tab. Customers can click on the “Feature Suggestions” box to submit and vote on ideas for improving the ER system, which are then reviewed and considered for implementation by ER developers. “We surmised that if ER placed that ability at the fingertips of its users, they must value their input,” Roberts says. His efforts to best utilize the Feature Suggestions option and to get other neighboring fire departments/ER users to participate led to Roberts’ creation of an ER Users Group. We chatted with Roberts to learn about his plans for the Users Group and how it will benefit participating departments. Check out our Q&A with Roberts below:
ER: How did you initially get the communication started with other ER users?
Roberts: I got a list of all the fire departments in the state that use ER and set about getting contact information for at least one person with that department. My plan was to build an email group of users, and each time I created a feature suggestion I would email the group and ask them to go to my post and, if they agreed with my suggestion, vote for it. I asked that if anybody else suggested a feature, they should email the group and we would do the same for them.
ER: What inspired you to take the group emails to the next level with virtual meetings?
Roberts: Many of the emails that I received, and even some phone calls, came from ER users from across the country agreeing with my suggestions or seeking advice. But even though many agreed with my suggestions, it seems that they didn’t know how to vote on it. That is when I thought about having a training session via Zoom to show everyone the process of logging into the support page, finding the suggestion, and voting for it. Then, in addition to that basic training, I thought about how we could get even more out of this group – by sharing information, training each other, and having a list of contacts that anybody in the group could reach out to for help.
ER: So, your Missouri ER Users Group was born. Can you tell us about how your first meeting went?
Roberts: We recently held our first virtual meeting on March 1. We were pleasantly surprised when we had several ER employees in attendance. We started the meeting off by explaining the vision of the group, and how we can use our meetings for training and networking. We discussed where this group would go, reviewed many of the feature suggestions that our group had made, and answered a few “How do you do….?” questions. Another thing we discussed is the value of the support page. We went over many of the benefits found there to answer questions a user may have, and the self-paced training available. I had planned on having a training session on permits, but our meeting had already gone on for 90 minutes, so we decided to wait until our next meeting to incorporate a training element.
ER: What do you envision for the future of your new ER Users Group?
Roberts: We currently plan on holding these virtual meetings quarterly. I can envision separate sub-groups of the Missouri ER Users Group breaking off and holding their own meetings. For example, a group of fire marshals and inspectors, a group of training officers, etc., all holding their own training and meetings covering what is germane to their roles within ER. Who knows, maybe someday someone will start a nationwide fire marshal users group for ER users.
ER: It sounds like the Missouri ER Users Group is off to a great start! Is there anything else you’d like to add about your experience?
Roberts: I would just like to give a huge shoutout to the Emergency Reporting employees for attending our meeting and providing support. They provided insight into the program and explained why things operate the way they do. They offered suggestions, listened to our concerns, and seemed genuinely interested in addressing issues we encounter. Their involvement gives me great comfort that ER really cares about its users and strives to provide an ever-improving product.
Assistant Chief/Fire Marshal Ryan Roberts has been with the Cottleville Fire Protection District for 33.5 years, with the last 3 years as the fire marshal. Roberts says that if you have any questions about starting your own group, or would like to join the Missouri ER Users Group, feel free to contact him at (636) 577-8259 or [email protected].