By tracking COVID-19 hotspots, this Nevada-based fire department is prepared to take extra safety precautions for staff
From gathering data to information sharing, first responders can keep track of all details in real time with incident management software
By FireRescue1 BrandFocus Staff
Deputy Fire Chief Jack Snyder said there has been a noticeable decline in 911 calls in Elko, Nevada, a rural city with about 20,000 citizens that is known as the home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
Elko is not an anomaly – other cities like Fargo, North Dakota, have also reported a steep decline in crime since the pandemic.
“In Elko County, we have been listening to the recommendations from our governor and public health experts, and I think that’s one of the reasons why our call volume has dropped – because people aren’t out and about and taking those daily risks,” said Snyder, who has served 19 years in the fire service following 17 years in the military.
Managing incidents anytime, anywhere
But fewer emergency calls doesn’t mean Snyder and his crews are taking it easy. He said the fire station has taken extra precautionary measures to decontaminate surfaces and adopted a proactive approach in testing. He also says the department’s Rhodium Incident Management Software, which helps first responders at the Elko Fire Department track down hotspots of the outbreak, has made a big difference when it comes to safety.
“We looked for a platform that we could utilize as an all-hazards-approach tool, given our location. We needed something that could handle almost any incident you could think of,” said Snyder. “We ultimately became very big fans of Rhodium Incident Management because of the flexibility and user-friendliness of it, and because of the fact that we can use it pretty much anywhere.”
For instance, the department has leveraged the software to deal with structural fires, gas line breaks, train derailments and other emergencies. When a train derailed in 2019, Snyder says, first responders were able to gather a plethora of key information that helped responders move as fast as they could, as opposed to starting from scratch when they arrived on the scene.
“Anyone with a login to our system was able to see what was going on, and this helps tremendously with information sharing during an emergency,” said Snyder, “from accountability to resource tracking, resource ordering and even a checklist in which newcomers can learn which areas are a priority. It’s been a great tool that helps us figure out what benchmarks we need to hit.”
Tracking COVID-19 in the community
And when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the nation, Elko was prepared to use the incident management system to identify and track the spread of the virus and identify hotspots in the community.
“Let’s say we have areas within the community that is showing lots of cases of COVID-19,” said Snyder. “By knowing which areas need first responders to take extra precautionary measures and by monitoring the volume of the spread, we can identify patterns or correlating factors that contribute to the uptick in cases.”
Snyder adds that his team has been able to take pandemic planning to the next level with the data yielded from their incident reporting software. Given that asymptomatic COVID-19 patients can also infect others, knowing which calls are in high-risk zones is key for first responders’ peace of mind. The department also recently partnered with neighboring counties to share the COVID-19 cases they encounter and help with contact tracing efforts throughout the state.
“The pandemic is a different animal, but it’s nothing new to us since we’re expected to deal with infections and other bloodborne pathogens,” he said. “During this time, it’s most important for leaders to take care of their people, our family members in the firehouse who also have families at home that they want to protect.”
Incident management tools like Rhodium Incident Management continue to help first responders monitor large-scale public safety risks like the pandemic and deliver informed, coordinated responses to better serve their communities.
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