Top Software Tools for Volunteer Fire Departments
Volunteer firefighters are key to keeping communities in the United States safe; in fact, volunteers make up 67% of firefighters in the country. Volunteer firefighters are particularly vital for small, rural communities that often cannot support a full-time staffed fire department. Statistics show that 95% of volunteer firefighters protect a population of less than 25,000, and these communities depend on their volunteer departments to act as first line of defense for a wide range of emergencies, including natural disasters, high water rescues, fire and medical emergencies, and much more.
Unfortunately, volunteer fire departments, like many other staffed departments, are increasingly being asked to do more with less. Volunteer departments also face unique challenges in retention, recruitment, and budgeting, as well the fact that officers are often balancing their time at the station with their “regular” jobs and life responsibilities.
The good news is that volunteer fire departments can use fire RMS software to work smarter, not harder. Designed specifically for fire departments, these tools make it easier to track and plan for every element of station operations, with reporting tools for easily sharing data with those making budget decisions. Additionally, fire service software helps volunteer departments with these key job responsibilities:
People and Records Management
Your people are your most valuable resource in a volunteer fire department. It’s important to keep accurate records of their achievements as well as medical information, emergency contacts, courses taken, and involvement in critical incidents and exposure to hazardous materials. Fire personnel management software can not only help you track training (with important documents attached) but can automatically alert you to upcoming expirations, so that your team is always in compliance.
You can also easily and securely filter, sort, and search records, from immunization records to employment dates and more. Insight into critical incident exposure can help you offer the right resources to your team, whether that means hazardous chemical exposure or involvement in a traumatic event. A reliable and robust personnel management system ensures your team not only meets all requirements, but that you can help your team members stay healthy in body and mind for years to come.
Tracking your calls and participating in the efforts of the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) is a common part of daily operations for fire departments in the U.S., and volunteer departments are no different. Key among the benefits of incident reporting are developing a picture of common calls (to help better allocate your resources), understanding the number/amount of calls (to help determine how many resources you need), and contributing to the overall fire service perspective in the U.S. (which can help secure funding at a federal level for volunteer programs). Your incident reports can also help you create effective community outreach programs and more specialized training for your team.
Today’s top incident tracking software offers exceptionally easy data entry, has built-in features to reduce human errors when entering in data, and allows you to easily see the number, type, and scope of the calls you answer. Team members can reduce their time spent manually entering data or searching for missing fields, helping improve job satisfaction while also ensuring you’re getting accurate data from every call. More accurate insight into what’s really going on in your station and community helps you make better decisions to keep your department operating at optimum efficiency.
Analytics and Data
Communication and being able to tell your fire story is key to ensure your department is well represented and understood, including during budget time. This is particularly true for volunteer fire departments that often must fight for the valuable and limited resources they need to do their jobs well. Happily, you can now ditch the Excel spreadsheets and calculators, and instead use Fire Analytics software that automatically pulls, processes, and creates reports based on your key metrics.
Your data may be complex, but you don’t need a PhD to understand the data within your organization. Analytics software does the heavy lifting, so you can easily access insight into your department, and share it as needed. This ability also helps you monitor performance, uncover gaps, and make operational decisions based on what you learn from the real-world, up-to-date data you collect. Finally, being able to pull reliable, historic data makes you more prepared to create and submit competitive grant applications that are so valuable to volunteer fire departments.
One of the challenges in an all-volunteer department can be creating consistency in SOPs, sharing logbooks, tracking down work orders, and more. Paper is often the only method of recording important information and, unfortunately, paper can easily get lost or misplaced.
A more efficient and modern way to organize and manage your assets is through Fire Asset Management software, including features that allow you to easily build out daily checklists. These can be shared and used to create your game plan for each day and, since they are digital, they can be automatically analyzed to deliver back metrics and updates. You can also use these tools to track needed repairs and communicate between shifts.
Your station’s equipment is one of your largest investments. Properly managing your assets can help prevent costly downtime and repairs, meaning better performance for a longer period of time and, ultimately, less money spent over the life of your asset. Using fire asset management software to proactively maintain your equipment helps ensure your station’s readiness and keeps your firefighters safer during incident response.
Working Smarter, Not Harder
Volunteer fire departments are an invaluable resource to the areas and people they serve, undoubtedly saving property and lives in the parts of the U.S. that are far removed from larger cities and departments. While volunteer departments have plenty of obstacles to overcome, powerful and easy-to-use software tools can help save time and offer more insight into operations. This in turn makes it easier to run an efficient, prepared station that can not only make a case for the resources it needs, but clearly document the impact it is making in its community.
Explore the full suite of fire software tools from ESO now, or watch the video, 5 Things You Need in a Fire Record Management System (RMS).