What Firefighters Want from Technology
A recent study of the global fire service is indicating that agencies across the world are experiencing a paradigm shift in not only how they are currently use data, but how they hope to use it in the future. More than just fulfilling basic reporting obligations, fire agencies are increasingly using data for daily decision-making. Today’s agencies are using fire-specific software tools to collect and maintain data on a wide variety of fire activities such as response information, patient care, fire inspection, training, public education, and more.
The Potential of Data
In order to better understand the state of the existing fire ecosystem, the NFPA developed and administered a national fire data survey in 2017. This survey looked at what types of data fire departments collect; what software they use to capture, store and analyze data; and how they use that data for local decision-making.
The survey results showed that the fire service is at an important crossroads in the way it understands and uses data, with two important themes emerging:
- Data, as it is currently being collected, is problematic and is not used to its full potential.
- Data has significant untapped value and potential for the fire service to improve service delivery, resource planning, and increasing community safety.
More Than Just Incident Reporting
Through the survey answers, fire departments reported that they are increasingly collecting data that goes above and beyond what is collected by the NFIRS, and that this data is helpful in making real-time decisions in daily operations of their agencies. Collection has grown far beyond just incident data, and many agencies are developing a comprehensive approach that offers a better picture of their activities.
The majority of the fire departments in the survey maintained all their records in an enterprise Records Management System (RMS). However, the respondents shared mixed feelings about the various RMS systems that they used.
Love and Hate with RMS
Interestingly, the top two best thing and worst aspects of their RMS systems, as expressed by respondents, were basically mirror images of one another. Fire service personnel were most interested or excited by the possibility of using the data within their systems; however, they also expressed frustration getting access to and using that data.
Additionally, of the fire departments with an RMS, nearly 20% maintained more than one major system within their own department. Given that many records management systems provide comprehensive suites of data collection tools, there is likely a considerable amount of overlap and underutilization among the capabilities of the various systems. Unless each system is appropriately integrated to share data between the different platforms, the process of conducting comprehensive analyses is likely to be even more challenging.
What Fire Departments Want
Other concerns and challenges when using a fire RMS included:
- Quality and consistency of data (avoiding the “Garbage In, Garbage Out” phenomenon)
- Learning curve for training personnel on the software
- Improved user experience
- More customization and configurable dashboards
- Features like auto-population options to streamline work
- Customer service and responsiveness of software vendor
- Easier access to external databases
- Better analytics and integrations
- Mobile data access
- Centralization of data
Based on these survey results, NFPA concluded that the environment where digital records are being created – through a host of systems and means – would continue to be used by fire agencies to effectively manage fire emergencies, organizational processes, and mitigate potential risks. While some fire service agencies seemed to primarily use data for record-keeping processes and to comply with reporting requirements, an increasing number of fire service agencies will be using data to manage their organization and their emergency operations.
A More Complete Fire RMS
Interestingly, the fire RMS developed by ESO addresses these top concerns by offering a complete ecosystem of fire modules to handle day-to-day operations. And with its upcoming release of three new modules – Permits, Activities and Hydrants – the ESO fire suite will be complete. With many ESO team members also having previous or current field experience in the fire industry, they know what it’s like to face time-wasting redundancies or disparate pieces of data. The ESO Fire RMS is designed to save departments time and resources, and make their data more useful, more quickly.
For example, ESO Fire RMS software includes:
- Modules that help you store and access data on personnel management, incidents, properties, inspections, asset management, training, scheduling, and more.
- Progressive validation features that easily identify errors as you are working.
- Cloud-based data storage that allows you to access records anywhere, including en route to a call.
- Integration with other databases and tools like ESO EHR that reduce data re-entry
- Support of +1 codes and NFIRS codes.
- An assigned implementation coordinator to get you up and running, including scheduling any onsite training
- State data submission features through an automated process that meet each state’s schedule and format requirements.
- No hardware required, and software updates conducted automatically via cloud services.
While more and more fire departments are becoming data savvy, it’s helpful to know there are powerful tools available to access the benefits of data, without the pain of a “data deluge.” Fire departments, just like businesses in the private sector, can achieve substantial gains in efficiencies and productivity by making the most of the data at their disposal. Reducing paper work undoubtedly leaves time for more training, more proactive planning, and a more efficient and effective fire service.
For more information on ESO Fire RMS, visit eso.com/fire.