As technology continues to help shape and grow the fire service in ways that many of us couldn’t have imagined even 10 or 15 years ago, it has become imperative that we consider the physical space and data requirements when designing and renovating fire stations. In a recent Firehouse.com article, “Technology Challenges in Your New Facility,” author Janet A. Wilmoth notes that “the systems required to support today’s communication, response, safety and security systems has advanced far beyond what was conceivable decades ago.” With today’s technology, most fire stations need a dedicated IT room or “data closet” to accommodate everything from dispatch/communications equipment, HVAC systems, lighting control panels, and building security systems to items like thermal imaging cameras, drones, and portable power tools.
One way that many fire agencies are saving space on their increasing abundance of technology is by ditching cumbersome paper files or locally installed boxed software and instead investing in a cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) solution like Emergency Reporting to meet their reporting and records management needs. Hard-wired solutions require servers, IT teams, and downloaded local software. None of that is necessary with cloud-based software, as the SaaS vendor manages the software, data storage, and any system updates, and the customer accesses the system through a web connection rather than a single computer. Not only does it save physical space, it’s typically a much more reliable and cost-effective solution for agencies who lack the time and/or IT personnel to manage a secure in-house system.
Also, by keeping data in the cloud and not on physical servers, it significantly reduces your vulnerability to data breaches. SaaS vendors offer physically isolated data centers and protected networks so that you don’t have to find space for that in your own station. These data centers are kept separate from general networks and are maintained to prevent unwanted communications and block unauthorized users, making them inherently safer.
One example of a fire department that benefited from ditching their installed software is King County International Airport – Boeing Field ARFF Unit. According to Deputy William Butterfield, they previously used FirePrograms, which was not web-based and therefore required IT support to maintain the server. When they signed up for ER software, Deputy Butterfield says it met their needs all in one program as opposed to having to use multiple programs to achieve the same results. “We can complete these tasks under ‘one roof’ so to speak,” he said.
Plus, the cost savings was a huge benefit. Deputy Butterfield said that because ER did not require them to have the program downloaded onto a local server, it saved time, money, and energy that would have been spent on computer IT issues. “By the time I include the cost(s) including the maintenance of the software, server(s), etc., we are still paying way less using ER as opposed to our prior system,” he said.
With increasing reliance on technology in the fire service comes an increase in the need for dedicated physical space and IT support. Being able to save on space and expensive servers/IT personnel by going cloud-based with your software is one way to alleviate things. If your agency is ready to go cloud-based with your reporting and data management, learn more about Emergency Reporting software with a free demo: https://emergencyreporting.ca/get-a-free-trial/