Demystifying big data: 3 smart ways fire chiefs can improve data analytics on the fireground

Fire service leaders can use these easy strategies to make the most of the information at hand


Sponsored by ImageTrend

By Yoona Ha, FireRescue1 BrandFocus Staff

First responders gather information, act, learn and put lessons learned into practice on a daily basis. We create and consume large amounts of data every day without even knowing it. But is your department leveraging data to make firefighting stronger, better and more efficient?

Fire department leaders should prioritize getting organizational buy-in on why it’s so critical to collect better data. (image/ iStock)
Fire department leaders should prioritize getting organizational buy-in on why it’s so critical to collect better data. (image/ iStock)

Over the past couple of years, fire chiefs around the nation have asked how the future of the fire service will be data-driven. Some departments are still playing technology catch-up when it comes to using data as a resource for firefighting strategies. But that shouldn’t deter you from reaching your goal to make your fire department a data-driven one.

Justin Dillard, a product manager at ImageTrend and a former firefighter and paramedic, is a subject matter expert in fielding firefighters’ questions and concerns about getting big data to work.

He shared his tips on how your department can integrate these pools of data to improve firefighting practices:

1.Mobilize your firefighters to know accurate fire incident reporting matters

“Department leaders should prioritize getting organizational buy-in on why it’s so critical to collect better data,” Dillard said.

Today’s first responders may find themselves losing sight of the importance of thorough incident documentation. It can be tempting to do the bare minimum, especially when you don’t know why these reports matter.

This is where fire service leaders can step in by explaining to the team how accurate incident reporting can help the department show its efficacy in serving the community.

As Dillard pointed out, departments are competing with other agencies for funding. In addition, grant applications are increasingly expecting departments to tell an evidence-backed narrative of why it needs funding.

2. Overcome technological obstacles with one-stop-shop software that improves documentation and reporting

There was a time when data entry was redundant – whether on paper or electronically – and each field was filled out manually. In today’s world, we no longer have to do that. RMS tools like ImageTrend Elite streamline the process of filling out forms by auto-populating fields from existing information and selectively displaying the appropriate fields using event visibility rules so the user doesn’t even have to spend time on unnecessary items. This saves first responders time and energy to focus on the fields that demand more of their attention.

Department leadership can help firefighters by taking advantage of modern platforms that lets you view dashboards and access pre-made reports or create them from scratch. Documentation and reporting go hand in hand in the fire service industry, so platforms like the ImageTrend Elite can help fire staffers look at all of the data that’s being collected in one place, including records on locations, occupants and inspections of buildings.

Another concern may be how your software will fare during power outages, internet outages or in a community where internet may be spotty; but the good news is that offline documentation is a straightforward process with ImageTrend Elite’s add-on capabilities including Elite Field, which allows first responders and fire inspectors to start and complete a report that will be submitted when an Internet connection is established.

3. Highlight how your department is setting and meeting goals

Every fire department has its own goals and objectives on how to serve their community. Drawing upon his experience on the fireground and as a product manager, Dillard noted that fire chiefs will need to communicate, track and report on goals from start to finish.

Platforms like ImageTrend Elite give everyone an overview of how things are going. Not only can transparency impact team trust and effort, but it can also be leveraged to attract more resources and talent when your department is moving in the right direction.

“Twenty years ago we could have anecdotally gone in and asked for more resources, but now everyone wants to see the data that’s been captured and how those numbers make a case for why your department needs more resources,” Dillard said.

Whatever it is that you’d like to measure and capture (whether it’s response time or number of rescue calls responded to) ImageTrend is ready to help your department build and track for the metrics you’re looking for. The available education resources empowers a department to run their own system without requiring a technical background, rather than being dependent on IT personnel.

Having actionable intelligence is a key component of smarter firefighting and prevention practices. You want your data to be a part of every strategic effort your organization plans and acts on. It’s time for fire departments to consider the importance of leveraging and making sense of the data that’s been captured on a daily basis. The sooner you start, the sooner your department will realize the benefits.

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