Pre-Planning 101: How to Build a Solid Pre-Plans Program

Posted on June 25, 2018
Categories: Best Practices

When it comes to building out a property pre-planning program, it’s no surprise that you need to make a plan of attack for launching your program before you even start that actual pre-planning process.

To build an efficient pre-planning program, you need the right people and procedures, as well as a commitment to staying on top of new developments in the field. If you want to know what looks like in practice, read on.

What is Pre-Planning and How Does it Aid in Fire Safety and Fire Protection?

Fire departments spend a significant amount of time in the community conducting inspections, both for new construction and for regular, required inspections. These inspections are an excellent opportunity to work with property managers on pre-incident planning or documentation that will promote better situational awareness and emergency response. Pre-plans benefit fire personnel, property owners, and insurance companies alike, as they can improve risk management and onsite decision-making.

A detailed incident pre-plan allows incident command and responding firefighters to better understand even the smallest details of a property experiencing a fire incident, including the location of hazardous materials, entrances and exits, and fire suppression systems. Updated fire pre-plans aid in forming a more efficient response, and pre-planning and inspection software can be a massive help in ensuring that records are current, full of details like photos and blueprints, and easily accessed from anywhere – even en-route to a fire. The result is better firefighter safety, improved situational awareness, and enhanced outcomes.

What to Include in a Pre-Fire Plan

When it comes to a pre-incident plan, the more specific the details, the better. Even the smallest bits of information – like where to park your fire truck based on the driveway, or if particular floors are unoccupied – save firefighters valuable time and resources. And this can add up to protected property or even saved lives. Fire pre-planning and inspection software can include options to add photos, videos, blueprints, and other rich data to help incident response make better decisions.

Some of the items that should be featured in a pre-plan include:

  • Building layout and design specs like fire-rated walls, doors, and windows
  • Complete floor plans of each level in the building
  • Fire suppression systems and alarm systems
  • Hydrant location and information
  • Occupancy information, including any occupants with special needs
  • Nighttime or weekend occupancy loads
  • Unoccupied floors or blocked entrances
  • Location of hazardous materials
  • Location of electrical or other systems embedded within walls

These details can make a difference in how and where your fire department approaches a fire incident, keeping in mind your water supply and fire flow, and if residents need to be evacuated. You should know if hazardous material might require additional PPE – or pose a risk of explosion or contamination. The building construction materials themselves – wood-frame vs. steel, etc. – also give you a better understanding of your timeline and help you prioritize your response. In a line of work where minutes can make life-and-death differences, you can’t underestimate the value of truly understanding your setting.

The Value of Details in Inspections

Again, regular property inspections are the perfect opportunity to create pre-plans, and it’s important to ensure your inspections are complete and updated. Inspection software can save you time and money, reducing the headaches and errors that often accompany paper checklists and forms. Not only do inspectors no longer have to go back to the station to re-enter the data (leaving room for data entry errors), they can instead complete their inspection forms onsite, add photos and videos, and schedule the next inspection.

Checklists can be created that are “progressive” (meaning you cannot move onto the next step without completing all required fields), helping ensure that even the newest inspector will include all the necessary information. Additionally, access to fire codes and integration with other department databases, along with the ability to store and access the records via the Cloud, make your inspections more accurate and consistent.

Building the Right Team for a Pre-Plan Program

Now that you’ve set the goal of developing a proactive pre-planning program, assembling the right team is key to getting any new or revamped program off the ground. Having the right people on your pre-plans team ensures that you have the necessary buy-in from your department, as it enables you to implement the right processes and systems without too much pushback.

How do you identify the right people? First, look to the fire marshals from your inspections division, and then round out your team with company leaders and field firefighters. In doing so, you’ll show the company as a whole the value of your pre-planning program and your commitment to the program’s success.

Developing Processes and Procedures

Once your pre-plan team in place, it’s time to further develop your program by establishing the appropriate processes and procedures. Policies you should set need to relate to the frequency of inspections, the data you want to collect, and jurisdiction.

Remember, you should show – not tell – when training your team on new tools. Hands-on training goes a long way to help users feel more confident using pre-planning processes and software. The more comfortable your team feels using these tools, the more likely they will adopt and adhere to the new techniques and procedures.

Always Look for Ways to Improve

Once your program is up and running, your team should regularly review your processes and procedures to ensure things are running as efficiently as possible. You can do this by providing opportunities for your staff to give open and honest feedback. Additionally, you must stay on top of any departmental changes or updates that could impact your program.

You should also keep in mind that others may be experiencing the same issues or have the same concerns as you when running a pre-plan program. Connect with other departments that serve areas similar to yours to see what has and has not worked for them. It’s likely that they have experienced the same issues as you and might be able to offer insight into how to combat these challenges.

Property Pre-Planning Keeps Your Community Safe

Finding the best people to run your pre-plans program, as well as implementing and re-evaluating your processes and procedures, can help you rest easy knowing that your agency’s pre-planning program gives you the information needed to keep personnel and community safe during an emergency.

Situational awareness is one of your most valuable tools for responding to an incident and saving property and lives. Doing the work before the response – with a robust pre-planning program and updated, complete inspection records – help keep the community safer before incidents but also improve your outcomes when the calls come in.

Learn more about ESO Properties and Inspection Software that makes pre-planning more efficient than ever.