Fire Asset Management Explained

Firefighting technology continues to evolve rapidly, with advancements in vehicles, apparatus, SCBA, and other gear making the work “smarter” and more efficient every year. This new technology undoubtedly creates a safer work environment and has the potential to help save more lives and property in the community.

However, it can also be expensive, both to purchase and to maintain. Now, more than ever, asset management and preventative maintenance is key to ensuring station readiness and getting the most out of your investment in equipment and assets. 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.

What is Fire Asset Management?

In many industries where costly equipment is involved, managers spend a good amount of focus on regularly tracking, checking, and maintaining their equipment. A fire station is no different; today’s top-of-the-line fire trucks can cost up to $1 million dollars, and outfitting a single firefighter can exceed $12,500.

Even for smaller departments, managers are asked to do more with less, and ensuring you get the most out of each piece of equipment over the longest time possible is key to making the most of your budget. More importantly, proactively managing your equipment helps ensure your station’s readiness and keeps your firefighters more prepared and safer in incident response.

What are Common Fire Assets?

From the largest gear to the simpler equipment pieces, a station’s full range of resources can benefit from regular inspection, maintenance, and upkeep. This includes:

  • Vehicles and Apparatus: This can vary based on the size and geographic location/needs of a station but typically includes Type 1 and 2 fire engines, ladder trucks, compressed air/breathing support vehicles, patrol vehicles, and battalion chief vehicles. This may also include rescue vehicles and boats, foam fire apparatuses, aerial firefighting apparatuses, brush rigs, and more.
  • Large Gear: Every firefighter in a station also has access to an extensive set of bunker gear that includes SCBA and turnout gear. Stations may also maintain sets of proximity suits and hazmat suits, and specialized tools for specific situations like wildfires or certain rescue scenarios.
  • Vehicle Parts and Items: A well-equipped station also maintains a healthy stock of spare parts for its tires, hose, ladders, and other mission-critical equipment. Many of these specialized items take a fair amount of time to order and ship, and repairs can affect readiness if they are not available.

Challenges in Fire Asset Management

While there’s no denying that asset management is important not only to station readiness and firefighter safety, it’s also easy to see how managing the number and quantity of equipment can quickly become an overwhelming task. A station already limited on headcount might balk at the amount of time and resources it would take to check and report all the station’s equipment regularly. Other times, managers might not be sure where to start to improve current asset management processes. Some of the challenges of asset management include:

  • A reliance on pen-and-paper processes to manage physical assets
  • Lack of data and insight around the state of current assets
  • Inability to track needed repairs
  • Disjointed or complicated process for scheduling repairs or maintenance
  • Inability to track costs of repairs and maintenance
  • Lack of enforcement on regular maintenance and checks

The good news is with some organization and a strong asset management plan, fire departments can proactively take charge of their equipment and tools, develop an accurate view of the status for all assets, and control budget and expenses.

Creating a Better Asset Management Plan

Taking some time to get organized and institute a new process for asset management can pay off in the long run for your station. Not only will you become aware of the current state of your equipment and resources, but you can also form maintenance plans. The cost and hindrance of regular, planned proactive maintenance are substantially lower than the adverse effects of a major breakdown, repairs, and downtime. To get started, stations should:

Take Stock of Current Assets:

Set up a plan to document your current assets. Include the make, model, year, serial number, and other identifying information when creating your base. In the fire service, items have the propensity to move around from station to station, so you should create a hierarchy for outlining where items go and to which station they belong.

Schedule & Document Regular Maintenance:

Today’s major fire assets can cost over $1 million dollars, and these expensive pieces of equipment need special maintenance and care to ensure your investment delivers over time. Just like your personal vehicle at home, each piece of fire equipment can benefit from recommended manufacturer’s checks, such as oil changes, hose inspection, and replacement, pressure checks, and more. Keeping your equipment in prime operating condition extend the life of the vehicle or device, delivering the most return on your investment.

Track Work Orders and Repairs:

One of the biggest challenges in fire asset management is tracking work orders and repairs. Between different shifts and various team members, it can be easy to lose track of what needs to be repaired, where the repair should go (in-house or to an outside vendor), or when something was last repaired, and the costs. Create a system for tracking your work orders and repairs, so you know the actual cost of maintaining your assets.

Use Analytics to Understand the Lifetime Value of Your Assets:

In many stations, asset management is completed with pen and paper or Excel spreadsheets. Both can only get you so far in delivering on the analytics behind the assets you own. To really understand your assets’ lifetime value and how you should properly budget for them, you need to get deeper insights. Typical analytics should cover repairs completed, costs, total costs over the life of the gear, locations of gear, and maintenance reports.

Getting Smarter Asset Management with Software

With so many moving parts, it can be overwhelming to try to set up and maintain a manual fire asset management tool for your department. However, software tools designed specifically for the fire industry are extremely helpful in organizing the daily operations of a station, including asset management.

Tools like ESO Asset Management can convert your regular equipment checks into a digital interface, letting you track detailed information – including status, maintenance records, activity, quantity, and profile – from a computer, phone, or tablet. You can scan an unlimited number of items into the system and add any important information, including images or PDFs. You can create custom checklists that are easy for every team member to integrate into a daily routine, ensuring compliance with station protocols.

Additionally, the tool’s notification system alerts you of any needed repairs or replacements and helps you track exactly where each piece of equipment is in the repair process. Finally, the analytics functions help you easily export reports to give you an accurate picture of your assets’ overall state, helpful in budget planning, compliance, and reporting.

Watch a introductory video or download the one-page brochure on how ESO Asset Management can benefit your fire station.

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