Sharing Pre-Plan Data to Improve Responses

When an incident call comes in, what fire department doesn't want to respond as quickly as possible? Response, however, involves not just the speed with which firefighters must reach the scene, but executing tactics to handle the incident once on-scene...


When an incident call comes in, what fire department doesn't want to respond as quickly as possible? Response, however, involves not just the speed with which firefighters must reach the scene, but executing tactics to handle the incident once on-scene. National Fire Protection Association...


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When an incident call comes in, what fire department doesn't want to respond as quickly as possible? Response, however, involves not just the speed with which firefighters must reach the scene, but executing tactics to handle the incident once on-scene.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards indicate that it should take approximately six minutes from the time of notification of an incident by 911 dispatchers to the time that crews actually arrive on the scene. This would be ideal, of course, but it's not always achievable.

There is no standard for how long it should take to reach the cause or source of an incident and deal with it. A key element is how detailed the pre-incident plan is for the structure involved. The better the pre-plan, the more effective the response, right?

Fire agencies increasingly are finding that by sharing pre-plans with their 911 dispatch center, whether in-house or county based, this can significantly boost the quality of a fire crew's response and make a huge difference in minimizing damage at the scene.

To foster this kind of interactivity between a fire agency and 911 center requires that the pre-incident plans are, in an ideal situation, electronically accessible. Automating the pre-incident planning process means that fire and 911 can share pre-incident plans for all structures, and update them with the most current details on each building.

The payback of having accurate preplan information is dramatic time savings, richer details on structures, better firefighting strategies, and—at the heart of it all—heightened protection for responders and citizens.

Automated Pre-Planning

The Holland, MI, Fire Department decided to automate its pre-incident planning in late 2007. It uses The CAD Zone Inc.'s (www.cadzone.com) First Look Pro, Version 4 (FLP V.4), a software program designed for organizing and locating pre-incident plan diagrams of buildings, structures, maps and information. With it, the department shares pre-plans electronically with a countywide 911 dispatch agency since FLP can be used on multiple computers across a network.

Holland's fire apparatus have mobile data computers (MDCs) on which is loaded FLP V.4. Fire Marshal Todd Szakacs spearheaded the project to get the dispatch agency networked to all of the fire department's pre-plans, working with his information technology department. The dispatch center installed the Aegis/MSP Computer-Aided Dispatch software system from New World Systems to send messages to the MDCs on the apparatus with information about the call, such as where to go and incident details. FLP V.4 interprets the same message and finds the pre-plan for that building so it is instantly displayed when the firefighters board the apparatus.

In addition, the fire department chose to have First Look Pro Map (available separately from The CAD Zone) installed. With First Look Pro Map, a fire call is located automatically on the map as soon as it is routed from dispatch. The CAD Zone includes a GPS receiver in First Look Pro Map so an apparatus crew can see the vehicle's progress toward the incident updated in real time.

"The officer in charge of the shift (armed with a pre-plan on a mobile terminal) can actually deploy his strategy and tactics while he's enroute to the scene," Szakacs said. "He can stage firefighters while enroute where he wants them prior to arriving on the scene. And he can do hazardous materials inventory, emergency contacts, lockbox locations and FDC locations."

The biggest advantage of FLP V.4 to the Holland Fire Department's Information Technology unit is that it automatically takes the call from dispatch and pulls up the main pre-plan page plus the map without requiring input from fire department personnel. Another advantage is that FLP V.4 lets the department add different pieces of information to the map as a fire engine gets closer to the call scene.

"The data is updated wirelessly to the vehicle from a main location to the trucks and the people can continue to build up the pre-plans from either station," Szakacs said.

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