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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Another software offering, MobileRescue, from BIO-key International (www.bio-key.com), is a wireless mobile data solution that claims to "bridge the public safety interoperability and information sharing gap for first responders." However, the software does not appear to include pre-incident plan sharing as part of its capabilities. MobileRescue's features include silent, secure messaging (CAD-to-user/user-to-CAD communication); audible alarm for incoming messages; operations center tracking of responder vehicle location through automated vehicle location; real-time access to video feeds and other site information.

Interactivity Success

Urbandale, IA-based FIREHOUSE Software (www.firehousesoftware.com and (no relation to Firehouse® Magazine) offers a module called FH Mobile Preplans. As the name suggests, this module can be installed on any Windows-equipped laptop or mobile computer. Similar to The CAD Zone's Fire Zone pre-plan diagramming and First Look Pro pre-plan organizing software programs, the FH Preplans software can easily display building occupancy information en route to an incident scene. The software also has an audible play feature whereby a synthesized voice will read occupancy information when a building pre-plan is opened for review.

The FH Preplans software is able to display any of the Fire Zone pre-plans that hundreds of fire departments nationwide create. Therefore, when a fire or incident call is received by the 911 dispatch center, the CAD program queries the data from the Firehouse Software database and then electronically prompts it to be displayed on the CAD system and on MDCs in fire engines simultaneously. In addition, address and location information passed from CAD to the FIREHOUSE Mobile Preplans software will give direct access to valuable pre-plan information, a feature called "FH Live Link."

The Keizer, OR, Fire District installed FH Preplans in 2005 and uses it to bring up pre-fire plans created with The CAD Zone's Fire Zone on MDCs on six fire units. Recently created or updated pre-plans are captured by the Firehouse Mobile Preplan Viewer and displayed on the MDCs.

Like other fire departments, the City of Keizer's 911 dispatch center is set up to send a building address to the fire department's MDCs. Since the Fire Zone-generated pre-plans are already on the MDCs, any of them will come up on the MDCs once the corresponding address is keyed in by a firefighter after he has boarded the fire engine. Additionally, Deputy Fire Marshal Rod Conway said, "I can see dispatchers having those same (pre-fire plan) drawings synchronized at their dispatch center where they could also pull them up. And maybe they could be looking at the drawing while the units are enroute." With this kind of configuration, Conway added, "A dispatcher can note that maybe there's a hazard in a certain part of the building, or the access to the warehouse is on the back side of the structure before firefighters had time to view the pre-plan while en route to the scene."

Like Conway, Janice White, president of The CAD Zone, sees clear advantages to bridging 911 and fire departments via shared building pre-plans. White explains that a fire department's First Look Pro data (if this is the pre-plan organizing software being used) must be generated by the CAD software.

"That ensures that all the addresses match exactly," White said, "so First Look Pro can find the correct one when a call comes in. First Look Pro has a utility to help the fire department import the addresses from the dispatch software. Once the database is set up in First Look Pro, then firefighters can go in and add all their pre-plan information, diagrams, photos, and any other important pre-plan items."

Gathering Data

As it is now evident, having a reliable software program to help capture and display pre-plan information on a mobile computer is essential. Only a few software programs are available for this important task. One of these is Inspector Tools from RLS Data (www.rlsdata.com). As its name implies, Inspector Tools is designed to let fire departments automate building inspection data and permit management, eliminating forever the need for handwritten reports, but also making sure the same, detailed data is captured for every building inspected. Thus, firefighters can build more complete pre-plans. The software can be deployed on any mobile tools such as Pocket PCs, tablet PCs, laptops, mobile data terminals, wired or wireless. In addition, RLS Data offers The CAD Zone's First Look Pro pre-planning software with Inspector Tools for a modest additional cost.