On Christmas Day 1998, a present was delivered to the emergency service community. That present was Firehouse.com.On its first day, Firehouse.com received over 2,500 visitors who quickly became a regular audience. The Firehouse website made many promises that it would become the premiere emergency service website of choice. Firehouse.com has lived up to that promise. In January, after being less than one month old, Firehouse.com was chosen as a YAHOO! pick of the week.YAHOO! is one of the most popular websites on the Internet with over 17 million daily visitors.
By early May, Firehouse.com was averaging nearly 6,000 visitors on weekdays, often exceeding that as major incidents and stories hit the news wire. This achievement, however, was not accomplished as a fluke, but rather by specific design. At first glance, Firehouse.com has an appearance that is impressive, easy to use and full of information.
Late-breaking news for fire, rescue and EMS providers is the strongest draw to the website. In seconds, a visitor is able to see the latest emergency service news. The architect of Firehouse.com, Dave Iannone, stated early on, "The goal of Firehouse.com is to be the leader in keeping everyone from the emergency front lines to the chief's office informed." News reports are received within minutes from the Associated Press and are rapidly updated at Firehouse.com. Additionally, individuals can visit the website and subscribe to Firehouse.com's exclusive "News Day" service, which delivers emergency-related headlines and news stories to thousands of subscribers daily by e-mail. Whether you're trying to keep up with line-of-duty deaths, product safety recalls, government news or other emergency services news, Firehouse.com is the place to visit.
A unique aspect of Firehouse.com news involves exclusive features on late-breaking stories. For example, when two Washington, D.C., firefighters died in the line of duty, Firehouse.com was there with comprehensive coverage that included many photos, links, postings of condolences and news updates regarding the funerals. After three firefighters were killed in the line of duty in Fort Worth, TX, Firehouse.com provided similar coverage, and the website was even featured on numerous local newscasts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area for its extensive coverage. The reporting of firefighter line-of-duty-deaths is a high priority and Firehouse.com is more often than not the first place that you will learn of these tragic incidents. Also featured on Firehouse.com is extensive coverage of the nation's wildfires, including a new section with updating news, links and web resource listings.
When the Columbine High School shootings occurred in Littleton, CO, Firehouse.com kept you informed with coverage that included an interview with the Littleton fire chief on the day of the incident and follow-up reports about how rescuers were affected by the tragedy, including a personal story from a dispatcher who was on duty at the time of the tragedy. After the Illinois Amtrak crash occurred, thorough coverage provided news stories and aftermath photos courtesy of the first-due company. Firehouse.com also brings forward stories/updates on court cases and other legislation that affects the emergency services community.
The interactive nature of Firehouse.com has also contributed to its success. The Firehouse.com Interactive Message Forums contained within the website have become one of the most popular areas of emergency services participation on the World Wide Web. More than 40 topic message forums contain hundreds of subcategories from administration to rescue to employment. There are more than 2,000 registered participants (firefighters, paramedics, officers, training officers and chiefs) in the message forums with over 10,000 messages posted to date with an average increase over 2,300 monthly. One of the most popular featured message forums is the University of Extrication with Firehouse® Magazine Contributing Editor Ron Moore. When you need to find out what others are doing regarding a similar situation in your department, post it at Firehouse's Interactive Message Forums. It's quick and easy, and you're sure to receive feedback.
Overall content is the strength that makes a lasting impression on visitors to Firehouse.com. In addition to news and message forums, there are many other attractions. To keep you up to date with the print edition of Firehouse® Magazine, Firehouse.com previews the upcoming magazine content and provides the archived content of previous issues.
Firehouse.com also recognizes the trauma that surrounds friends, families and rescuers when a child is seriously injured or killed. For that reason, it is committed to posting extensive fire and child safety information from the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Safe Kids Coalition.
The website also offers online registration for the Firehouse Emergency Services Expo hosted in Baltimore each year as well as an online subscription service for Firehouse® Magazine readers.
Firehouse.com also provides web links to emergency services agencies, businesses, organizations and personal web pages now exceeding 3,000 and receiving approximately a dozen new entries per day. Other features include, but are not limited to:
- An interactive calendar of events that is updated frequently.
- A listing of "Hot Spots on the Web" that have been featured in Firehouse® Magazine.
- A service that lets you order firefighting books through Barnes and Noble Online.
- A powerful search engine to help you to quickly find the information that you are looking for.
The future for Firehouse.com looks brighter than ever. Since the debut of Firehouse.com, Iannone said, "The response from the fire, rescue and EMS community has been overwhelming." Plans are in place to be even more interactive by including additional resource information from the print edition, implementing a section on anti-terrorism and much more.
In a recent press development, Iannone has been brought on board by Cygnus Publishing (parent corporation of Firehouse® Magazine) as a full-time member of the staff to oversee the quality and progress of Firehouse.com, among other projects.
Cygnus Publishing is ranked among the top business-to-business publishing companies and management has pledged its full support to make Firehouse.com the most successful emergency services website in the world. The next major goal of Firehouse.com is to exceed 10,000 daily visitors by the end of this millennium.
Charles Werner, a Firehouse® Magazine contributing editor, is a battalion chief in the City of Charlottesville, VA, Fire Department, assigned to the Division of Training, Technology & Community Affairs. Werner serves as a technical advisor in the areas of computers/ Internet and was instrumental in the launching of Firehouse.com.