Written by Roger Parker, Fire Marshal, Elk Creek Fire Protection District (CO)
A couple of months ago, an NFPA survey about data in the fire service revealed frustration, and the need for improved data resources and decision making. NFPA is working diligently to address the issue and provide a path forward for improving data resources for the fire service.
In my opinion, the future of fire service data-based decision making is already here. Before becoming an Emergency Reporting (ER) user in 2009, the fire department I served on at the time was frustrated and realized they needed to improve data resources and decision making. The economic downturn of 2008 had a major impact on our ability to deliver services with limited resources. In addition, there was increased demand for community services. We needed to become more efficient and productive (do more with less). However, we were on data overload. Our data was being stored in numerous databases, which was expensive, and required a comprehensive technical support system that often resulted in frustration and finger pointing.
Finally, our fire department made the move to ER. Using ER, we were able to transfer and maintain our department’s operational data in one cloud-based database that was custom built, and is continuously updated, to meet the changing needs of the fire service. This system proved to be cost effective, easy to implement, and included on-party technical support. There were no time delays, cost overruns, or surprises. Since ER is cloud-based we were able to quickly go mobile and paperless. As a result, our frustration changed to empowerment.
ER gave us the flexibility to set up occupancies, zones, hydrants, etc. to meet our local needs. ER also gave us the structure to meet nationally recognized standards such as NFPA, ISO, and accreditation. Within a very short time we were able to pull current data, in a useable format, to help us make data-based decisions for our immediate needs and for long term planning purposes. One of the unexpected benefits of using ER was the ability for much of the data to be integrated with Google Maps for visual analysis and presentation. Our City management and elected officials could more easily comprehend the data when it was presented visually on maps of our community. They could instantly relate the data to their constituents.
Over a period of time, our transition to a data-driven decision making process helped us build an increased level of collaboration and trust between the fire department, City administrators and elected officials. City leaders provided the fire department with cutting edge, cost effective data resource technology, and the department was able to use the data to make better decisions to prioritize goals, allocate limited resources and be more productive and efficient in the delivery of services to the community. To put it simply, we were able to provide the right resources, at the right time, to the right place.
Last year I retired and went to work part-time for a combination fire department in the beautiful Colorado mountains. My first priority was to implement Emergency Reporting to improve their data resources and decision-making process. It’s been very successful. Recently, the Deputy Chief told me that of all the technology projects they’ve implemented over the past few years, ER was the first time that a technology project was easy to implement, on time, on budget, had no surprises and exceeded expectations.
In summary: there’s no need to be frustrated. Thanks to powerful tools like ER’s records management system, the future of fire service data-based decision making is already here.