About Independence Fire Department

Independence Fire Department was organized in 1936 and covers the City of Independence, Ohio over 9.73 square miles, centrally located in Cuyahoga County. The department’s command staff consists of Fire Chief Steve Rega, Assistant Chief Jim Wheeler, three Fire Lieutenants, and a Fire Prevention Lieutenant.

The IFD works hard to improve its level of service through training and professional development in order to serve the needs of the community. IFD provides Advanced Live Support (ALS) transport and fire mitigation and prevention services for the community and as a mutual aid resource to neighboring areas.

To read about they ways IFD is benefiting from using ER fire software, check out our Q&A with Assistant Chief Jim Wheeler below:

Q&A with Assistant Chief Jim Wheeler

Independence FD Assistant Chief Jim Wheeler


ER: First off, we’d like to ask: what’s your favorite thing about being a first responder?

JW: The challenges in the day-to-day operations. No two days are the same, whether I was working as a Firefighter or Lieutenant or now as an Assistant Chief. Over the years it has been exciting to keep up with the changing priorities of the fire service. You don’t see that type of work in many other positions.

ER: What did Independence FD use for records management before Emergency Reporting software?

JW: Firehouse Software.

ER: Why did you switch to Emergency Reporting?

JW:

  • Ease of use and navigation for the end-users
  • Web-based software
  • Availability of many reports that are easily downloaded to a PDF or Excel format
  • Integration with CAD, Google Maps, and Aladtec
  • Regional classes and ability to host regional classes
  • Quick response from ERS and support on any issues/helpful training staff

ER: How does the cost of ER compare to your previous software?

JW: While the cost has been about the same, the functionality and web-based service for our end users has enhanced our daily usage.

ER: What has changed since your department implemented ER software?

JW: Since implementing ER, we’ve been able to increase staffing from seven firefighters per shift to eight. Also, our recent ISO rating improved from a 4 to a 3, in part with help from reports and guidance from ER.

ER: What are some of the key data points you monitor, and how does ER help with that?

JW: I put together a monthly report in ER consisting of:

  • Summary of calls, featuring % of change over past 3 years
  • Dollar loss
  • Incident count with % of calls per day/hour
  • Incident categories by day/hour
  • COVID call issues with a heat map from BI Beta
  • Interstate Highway incidents with heat map
  • Overlapping calls and percentages during different parts of the day
  • Calls/shift comparison
  • Turnout time/shift comparison
  • Call participation by members
  • YTD responses per vehicle
  • Training categories and times
  • Inspection activity for prevention bureau
  • Maintenance on vehicles/equipment

ER helps by allowing me to quickly download the reports and transfer them to my monthly reports.

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ER: What are some of your favorite ER reports?

JW: There are so many useful reports in ER. Basically, if I cannot use a “canned” report I will download it into Excel or another file type and then format the data as needed. As an example, for Report 779, I can download it into a csv file format and make it easily searchable from there.

ER: Has using ER helped you to tell your department’s story to your community?

JW: We display our department stats coming from ER reports on our social media outlets and on our website. I am also currently looking into a project to integrate ER’s BI Basic Incident Volume analytics to our department website through an API or similar.

 

ER: What are some goals you have for your fire department, and how do you identify those?

JW: Goals are typically identified through our yearly budget. ER is included in the budget for yearly software and training expenses. Our training priorities and needs each year are guided through our training records in ER.

ER can also be helpful with capital purchases in estimating the cost and useful life of the item. Also, many if not all grant requests have utilized ER data to help justify our needs.

ER: Are first responders and/or civilians in your community safer since you started using ER?  In what ways?

JW: Over the past few years, we have been running trending reports that have shown a steady daily increase in calls for service and other types of work details.  From the trends, we successfully demonstrated to the city administration the need to increase staffing by one firefighter/shift. This increase in staffing went into effect last summer with the hiring of three additional firefighters.

In 2017, we received a FEMA grant for $24,000 to install CO and smoke detectors in our elderly (>65y/o) residents here in town.  We utilized the Occupancy Module in part to track placement and participation in this program. Reports 727 and 646 helped us to keep track of information received by this temporary program.

This information was utilized again this year with the COVID-19 crisis.  We had a database of elderly residents that we were able to contact with a phone survey to determine immediate needs in the community in light of the “Shelter in Place” order by the Ohio governor.

We are currently gathering and utilizing data in ER for responses to our Interstate Highway system. This data is providing evidence for a project to add an emergency entrance ramp from our service department to the highway. This quick access will allow us to significantly decrease response times to certain areas of our interstate highway.

ER: How did ER help your department with your last ISO audit?

JW: I found ER to be helpful with our ISO evaluation for a few reasons.

In 2018, I attended one of the Virtual Thursday Webinars where Mark Wolf conducted a class on ISO ratings, and he passed on helpful information that we would use for our own evaluation. This was just a few months prior to our scheduled audit, so the timing was perfect for a refresher on what to expect and how to organize our data most efficiently for any questions that would come up.

I downloaded an ER white paper on ISO audits and found the following chart and reports very useful for organizing much of our data:

We also got a boost in our Communications score (full credit) from our recent move to a regional dispatch, where we have automated CAD software linked to ER.

ER: What are your thoughts on the value of technology in the fire service, and how has technology changed the way you manage your daily operations and resources?

JW: When I started in the fire service, we were still completing NFIRS reports on paper in a notebook (try to quickly search that information for anything valuable!), and Microsoft Word/Excel was just coming into use (in general). Technology today is difficult to keep up with, so you need to be diligent and know what technology can be used effectively vs. technology that just increases workload without any benefit. Overall, with the upgrades in capacities of Wi-Fi and cellular data, software can be easier and more efficient to use by the fire service.

ER: What is your favorite aspect of Emergency Reporting software?

JW: My favorite aspect is that it’s an intuitive system to use. Also, I like the fact that our operations are backed up by a talented group who want to see all of us as individual fire departments succeed in our service to our communities.

 

Photos courtesy of Independence Fire Department.

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