Milford, Connecticut, Fire Department Uses ArcGIS to Optimize Incident Response

Redlands, California - The Milford Fire Department (MFD) has implemented ESRI's ArcGIS software to help manage its 3,500 prefire plans and to provide fire trucks with instant, mobile access to emergency data when responding to an event. This new capability assists in decision support, enhances situational awareness, and improves response capabilities using highly accurate incident data. In addition ArcGIS, a geographic information system (GIS) supports the agency with numerous public safety activities, including planning, preparedness, mitigation, response, incident management, and more.

"We have a very active, elaborate prefire plan program that has helped us with our incident response," says Lou LaVecchia, fire chief, MFD. "We recognized the need to get this information maintained and disseminated electronically, and we worked with ESRI to implement their GIS software to help make this happen. Now we have a faster, more efficient, and automated method for getting the right information to the personnel who need it. Using our GIS platform and applications, we can make information available in a way we could not do before."

"One of the primary challenges for the fire service is responding to fires and deploying quickly to reduce loss of life and property damage," says Russ Johnson, public safety industry manager, ESRI. "MFD has deployed GIS technology in a very practical way that provides first responders with critical information before they arrive at the scene of a fire. Rapid access to preplans, floor plans, and other premise information reduces the time required to deploy firefighters for rescue and suppression. MFD is providing firefighters with the required information at the right time and place to respond more effectively and safely."

Located in Milford, Connecticut, MFD is a full-service agency that handles all aspects of emergency services including fire, emergency medical service, rescue, hazardous materials response, and more. The highly touted agency is a Class One fire department-the highest rating possible-and is only one of three in the New England area. Nationwide, only 44 out of approximately 43,000 fire departments have earned this distinction.

As part of the agency's leading fire service delivery efforts, the department has a comprehensive collection of prefire plans for the thousands of buildings and land parcels located within its service area. MFD takes advantage of ArcGIS 9 to manage these plans and other data using advanced computing, geoprocessing, and visualization tools. ArcGIS is a scalable framework of integrated geographic information system (GIS) software for building a complete GIS. The open, standards-based technology uses object-oriented programming to provide fast customization along with a highly intuitive interface that is easy to install and deploy.

As part of its overall GIS platform, MFD takes advantage of leading software packages from various ESRI business partners. First Look Pro, from The Cad Zone, is used to organize and access all critical preincident planning information. The Omega Group's FireView software provides industry-specific mapping tools to help review existing deployment policies and develop new strategies. The MFD dispatch center is also equipped with CompassCom software for automatic vehicle location and mobile asset tracking.

The computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system links to mobile, GIS-enabled computers in the fire trucks. When a call comes in to the Milford E-911 center, the CAD system automatically notifies the mobile computers, and existing prefire plans are pulled up on screen, along with integrated tabular information, which can be analyzed and visually displayed while en route to an emergency. Data on parcels, buildings, fire hydrants, fire department connections, hazardous materials, and more is available in the mobile computers. In addition, MFD works closely with the city of Milford GIS department, which also uses ESRI GIS technology. The city was the recipient of an ESRI SAG Award at the ESRI International User Conference in San Diego, California. The partnership ensures the leveraging of resources in the best manner possible.

The system came in response to the agency's need to have a better method for managing and maintaining its rich collection of 3,500 prefire plans that were assembled and built over years. These plans were generated and maintained using paper-based methods, were updated once a year, and were looked up manually by street address. The system will continue to be extended to include more data.