Getting Your Fire Department Started with Personnel Accountability Software

Technology has transformed disaster management in modern times. Today, we have everything from aerial robotics to big data analytics to expedite and expand the impact of response teams in order to respond to emergency situations more smoothly and cost-effectively. Ultimately, it has helped personnel avoid mistakes and save more lives.

In fact, the rapid deployment of technologies and sound practices has led to a gradual decline in the loss of US firefighters on duty through the years. Since the inception of NFPA 1500, it is firefighter accountability that has become the essential key to any incident response strategy for a fire department. In 2020, 20 firefighter deaths were reported on the fire ground. This was the 4th time in 5 years that deaths have been consistently or below 20, a stark contrast from the late 1970s when the death toll used to be over 80 annually.

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Image Source: NFPA

However, many firefighting teams still use legacy systems that prevent them from accessing critical data to minimize injuries, death, and financial losses. The NIOSH Firefighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention reports frequently blame the lack of an effective personnel accountability management system as one of the major factors.

Why Do Firefighters Need Personnel Accountability Software?

It's the year 2022. Rapid digitalization is impacting all aspects of our life, from how we interact to how we shop, how value is created and exchanged. A survey reveals that by 2025, more than 50% of current business processes that are not yet automated will be automated by 44% of companies. Firefighters also need to look into legacy modernization to keep systems updated, agile, and resilient from external threats and crashes.

As per Gartner, a legacy application is a system based on outdated technologies, but critical to operations conducted daily. Why do companies do it?

  • To reduce the high cost of maintenance of legacy systems and infrastructure
  • To improve business competitiveness
  • Shortage of skilled employees in current technologies

It is important to prevent financial losses in the long run. For instance, in 2019, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified 10 federal legacy systems in dire need of modernization. Taxpayers paid $377 million each year for their operations and maintenance. This doesn't even include the hidden costs involved in maintaining outdated systems.

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Source: Altexsoft

For firefighters, data access is critical to saving lives. Achieving accurate firefighter accountability has been a challenge for departments and commanders for years. The existing systems fail to effectively capture and disseminate real-time data. Important data like:

  • Who’s on the emergency scene?
  • What is the physical location of everyone involved in the emergency scene?
  • Being able to account for the safety of everyone on the scene when a sudden disastrous event occurs, like an explosion or roof collapse.

Further, manual accountability systems need the involvement of incident commanders and firefighters to make the system operational. This pertains to all processes, whether dropping a cow tag or having a barcode scanned at the command post, making it cumbersome for people involved. Moreover, tag-based systems are highly obsolete today due to many reasons including the prevalence of broken or missing tags.

What departments today need is robust emergency incident management software that is designed by firefighters and leverages modern technology to enable intuitive and a far more effective personnel accountability process that:

  • Enables pre-incident preparedness
  • Provides comprehensive incident visibility
  • Improves firefighter safety
  • Create accountability over an entire department

Switching to a cloud-based automated incident management system further has extensive benefits. Firefighters can use historic and operational data in the cloud for disaster prevention, educational purposes, apart from emergency responses.

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Isn’t the Transfer to Cloud-Based System Challenging?

Switching to the cloud not only raises questions around cost but also having new types of organizations and people around those systems make departments skeptical. Thus, there is always resistance to system upgrades.

However, the risks of not having complete real-time information at the incident site far exceed this cost of the switch.

What Kind of Hardware is Required?

Modern fire department software needs only data connectivity to connect to the internet. The software is cloud-based, which means it will work on laptops, PCs, tablets, MDCs, and even smartphones. Team members can access the system on their mobile phones (both iOS and Android) seamlessly through an app. The app is present on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Departments can get a custom solution to match their needs and budget, whether it is for an entire county or an entire township.

Some Challenges to Think of During Legacy Modernization

For successful system modernization, it’s important to be aware of future challenges that fire departments could face.

  • User Acceptance: Legacy users are typically used to creating their own shortcuts and ways around the system. This makes it difficult for them to accept new technologies.
  • Unknown Connections: It could be difficult to ascertain the number of processes and people reliant on the legacy platform. People need to be aware of migration plans to avoid the risks of data losses.
  • Workflow Issues: People’s workflow becomes an issue beyond mechanical and programmatic changes. Member’s apprehensions and resistance need to be taken into account to avoid poor follow-through after deployment.

Focus on Training Can Help In Smooth Migration

With proper training and taking feedback from the users, fire departments can ensure the successful deployment of personnel accountability software.

Teams who already have proficiency with incident command systems (ICS) will find modern fire department software very easy to use. Minimal training is required to ensure that all emergency responders know how to use the system effectively.

If there are multiple legacy systems involved in one department, their modernization needs to be articulated and communicated properly to all stakeholders involved. Unplanned modernization often leads to staff dissatisfaction and higher attrition rates.

It’s high time for fire departments to deal with the lack of an effective personnel accountability system as a contributing factor towards line-of-duty injuries and emergency response inefficiencies. Not only do modern systems provide enhanced security and access to real-time information, but they provide greater flexibility and cost-effectiveness.

Fire departments have too much at stake not to use an incident management system to maximize the success of their operations. Agile technologies like PAMS are essential to tackle crises and respond effectively.