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IT application streamlines fire fighting

Green Bay, Wis. - The Green Bay Fire Department has been using the FireRMS records management since 2002 as a database to keep and manage its records. In an effort to better automate its operations, the department recently awarded BIO-key International a contract to interface FireRMS with TeleStaff, an automatic scheduling system from Principal Decision Systems International (PDSI).

The program seemed a natural choice for the department.

"[Before FireRMS], we were using NewWorld System, an older version that wasn't implemented very well in our department," Fire Chief Jeff Stauber said. "It had more features than we were trained on, and FireRMS is much easier for the fire fighter and the fire officer to use; it's more of a user friendly database."

After integration, both programs will automatically update each other: TeleStaff will use the credentials, training records and documented hours filed in the FireRMS database to create automated rosters and will automatically send records of staff hours to FireRMS.

"Right now battalion chiefs are responsible for staffing," Stauber said. "The fire staff spends two, three, or four hours a day making rosters, where the TeleStaff will automate this process, and battalion chiefs will just check for accuracy after the program is done. We'll be putting the battalion chiefs back out into the field, training staff where they belong rather than sitting behind a desk all day."
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As the department updates the database, FireRMS automatically updates all of the corresponding files. When the records management system is integrated with TeleStaff, the records in FireRMS become available to TeleStaff automatically. TeleStaff then uses the records to make rosters tailored to the company's needs - in this case, firefighters' scheduling needs, overtime and credentials. In addition, the program will make automated calls to possible replacements if a staff member calls in sick and will make automated calls to preset calling groups if the department needs to alert any of its staff to emergencies.

"The challenge in a fire department is to manage personnel and manage a duty roster for a given day which requites that you know an individual's credentials, the hours they've worked that week, whether they have vacation time, sick time, or overtime," said Mike Layman, director of product marketing for Fire and EMS Solutions at BIO-key International. "It's an automated system that works by interfacing with our records management system to get access to all of the recorded information."

With the new system, the department can save time in roster-making and finding replacements. In addition, because the two programs use an integrated database, it eliminates double data entry.

"When they do their reports, the data on those members will show up on the appropriate units," said Kathryn Prancevic, a national account executive for PDSI.

The FireRMS database was specifically designed for fire departments, and is able to record all aspects of the service, from vehicle management to staff training. Once data has been put into the system, the program automatically tracks and alerts fire staff when vehicles need servicing, when there are possible fire code violations, and even when department equipment or fire hydrants need to be replaced.

While TeleStaff was not designed specifically for the fire service, the Green Bay Fire Department will benefit immensely from the program.

"We were looking for a system that will make calls on multiple phone calls to bring staff back to reserve and to call personnel for staff to emergency scenes… to alert people to any terrorism events or emergencies within the system, asking the program to call everybody, or just some staff or one shift. The very initial stage of the research brought us to PDSI," said Stauber.

Katy Williams is a Brookfield-based correspondent for WTN and can be reached at katy@wistechnology.com.

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