Before signing up for Emergency Reporting fire department records management software, many of our customers spent years using paper records and Excel spreadsheets to try to manage their data and incident reports. This outdated method of managing fire department records is cumbersome, inefficient, and ineffective. As a FireRescueMagazine.com article states, “Under the best conditions, paper maintenance logbooks invite mistakes and miscommunication. Even when everything is adequately checked and recorded, issues arise. Paper logs are often outdated and don’t include all of the equipment that needs to be checked. They don’t always stand up in court as a way of proving compliance.” Despite this, there are many fire departments that are still doing things the old-fashioned way.
As cloud-based technology, mobile devices, apps, social networks, etc. have advanced dramatically over the years, individual consumers are quick to adapt, and this technology has radically changed our behavior and lifestyle. But still, organizations like Fire and EMS departments tend to adapt much more slowly and are often reluctant to change. It may seem like too much work to implement and keep up with accelerating changes in technology – especially with a limited budget.
However, going digital has proven to be well worth the investment in time and money for thousands of departments across the country. Roger Parker, Fire Marshal at Elk Creek Fire Protection District in Conifer, CO, says he spent 25 years using paper files before using Emergency Reporting fire software. Once his department went digital, he says it completely transformed everything for the better.
“I was fortunate to be working for a city that made the decision to place a high priority on improving technology to better serve the community,” Parker said. “The fire chief was ‘digital-ready.’ He took advantage of that opportunity and gave me the green light to transform our fire prevention program into the digital age. We implemented Emergency Reporting, including NFIRS, Hydrants, and the Occupancy Module with VISION and mapping integration.
“Around that same time a draft version of NFPA 1730 was released, encouraging fire departments to use data analytics to conduct a community risk assessment and develop a community risk reduction plan based on local data,” Roger added. “Using the ER VISION Module and NFPA 1730 as a roadmap, I began to redesign our fire prevention program into a more agile model that we could adapt to the needs of the community.”
Parker says the transition to digital tools and electronic record-keeping was very successful and the positive impact was noticeable right away. Here are just a few of the improvements that Parker says Elk Creek Fire Protection District experienced by going digital with the help of Emergency Reporting software:
- They became more employee-centric, seeking collaboration and feedback from the fire inspectors. Together, they customized the Occupancy Module to better manage the building inventory, inspection process, and permit process to improve employee productivity and efficiency.
- They customized their inspection form wording and started using the camera on their tablets to add photographs of violations to better communicate fire safety violations to the business community.
- They used tablets to conduct inspections, gather preplan information, and engage the business community with educational material from the ER Library Module.
Parker added, “The fire inspectors enjoyed coming to work and using digital tools to interact with the business community. They were more productive, efficient, and effective. Code compliance increased. They started getting compliments instead of complaints. In summary, we transformed our entire program from reactive to proactive using digital technology.”
Parker says he also experienced a transformation. “I would say ER has transformed me into a modern-day ‘Digital Fire Marshal,’” he said. “Just as I use my smartphone to manage my personal life, I now use my tablet and ER’s cloud-based software to manage my community risk reduction program. I have 24/7 access to every business, contact, fire protection system, fire hydrant, inspection, permit, calendar, event, and incident response in my community. In addition, I can run reports, search data, map data, and email the data. Most importantly, I can now make data-based decisions.”
Although some agencies understand the benefits, the added cost of going digital may be holding them back. But in the long run, as Parker’s story illustrates, the investment in digital data and records management is well worth it. Opting for a cloud-based software system is even more beneficial and cost-effective than out-of-the-box software.
As explained in a FireRescue.1.com article, cloud-based software “provides access to information from anywhere personnel have internet access. And that’s a big deal because many fire departments have increased their use of mobile devices (e.g., laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones). Cloud-based systems also eliminate the need for keeping software on individual machines or devices, so a department’s software is always current. This also serves to keep IT costs down for fire departments, and what department on a tight budget wouldn’t like that?”
To learn more about making the switch from paper records to electronic records management, watch this webinar video. If your department is interested in making the switch to Emergency Reporting fire software, sign up for a free trial here.