I am the Safety Officer of my Fire Dept. and am attempting to implemnet Pre Planning as part of the Safety Committee's responsibilities. I have seen many pre-planning software on the market but most seem to have somewhat of a learning curve and most are expensive, however that won't prevent my dept. from the purchase. I am looking for input from people who have expeience with this and your opinions on what is effective and what isn't, also which is easier to use and which is compatable with other software such as MS Word, etc. Also, does anyone have any knowledge or experience with GPS tracking of fire hydrants and such? Thank you for your anticipated cooperation.
I am a retired firefighter, now working for a software provider of Fire Dept Records systems.
Preplan tracking begins with a good set of property data, with a link to preplanning or customization of the property records. Since both properties and hydrants have an "address", they can be geocoded and displayed on a map as a point on the map. Streets are line segments, and property parcels (building lots) are polygon shapes on the map. So good mapping software allows the user to overlay multiple map layers of points, lines, and polygons.
You first identify a property address for a preplan, outline the fire safety devices and equipment available on that property, identify the closest hydrants, and link that information to a response.
My old dept originally created large file cards with hand drawings of the property, and wrote out the preplan information on the back of the card. That card was given a target number, which was included in the dispatch information. Now, it comes out the of the Records Management System according to the dispatchers addressing.
You can contract with private GIS contractors to create the map files, or if your community has a GIS person in the Engineering Dept, they can work with you to create the map files. You need software to display it, and a good CAD/RMS should be able to integrate the map files into the dispatching workflow.
My present job is with FDM Software, a provide of that technology. We have a good website that you can view. www.fdmsoft.com
You have to think about what you are actually trying to do with the software. Do you just want drawings, or do you want photos, videos, and text entry. There are drawing programs out there, and there are separate preplan data management programs. We have found with the drawing programs that you basically get what you pay for. The low-cost drawing programs can be easy to use, but the quality of the end product may be lacking. You can purchase programs such as Visio at www.techsoup.org at very low prices if you are a 501(c)3 non-profit. There are a variety of grant and other programs available to help fund your program http://fireplanningassociates.com/resources/
True preplanning programs take variety of data sources and gather them in 1 place where access is available to as many folks as possible, including fire, police and EMS. They should also attempt to meet NFPA 1620, which is now a Standard vs. a Recommended Practice. If you don't have that document, you should try and get your hands on it.
Many depts. have trouble getting buy-in from the troops on preplanning, which makes it more difficult to accomplish. If you can get a system that is readily accessible to edit and share, such as an on-line program, it will make use much easier. FFs can take cell phone pix and load them right in. With a web-based program, the updates can be immediately available to share with your mutual aid depts., but does require mobile devices with internet access. You don't want to be running around with flash drives, CDs, etc. - that is old technology at this point. Sooner or later, the preplans will be available real-time in heads-up displays in SCBA masks. The Feds are pushing wireless technology throughout the country, and especially for the public safety sector. They are working on a program called UICDS (Unified Incident Command Decision Support System) that will allow multiple software programs to interact, which means you don't need 1 vendor to do everything for you. Word is that this will be provided to jurisdictions at no cost from DHS.
You will find that preplan information needs to be good, but doesn't need to be "engineering quality" down to the exact location for hydrants, etc. If you get within a few feet, you are probably good. It is good to be able to grab data bases of water supplies and enter it into preplan software, but you will need more info than just the hydrant # and flow capability. You will also need to be able to identify alternative water supplies, which water cos. generally don't track. Request that your building dept., etc. get electronic plans (preferably .dwg format or .pdf) for all new buildings in your run area - that will give you a good head start on drawings, which can be the most difficult hurdle for most fire depts.
You also need to think about 2 levels of preplans - 1 for the first arriving units (a Quick Action Plan, sort of a subset of the detailed data)) that shows immediate hazards, water supplies, etc. and more detailed information for the IC and Planning Officer as the incident develops. Having a map with some building pictures/layouts is a good start, but smart building technology (sensors, etc.) will eventually be able to communicate with laptops in the field - that technology is close to mature now.
Some first thoughts, happy to talk more.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a principal in a preplanning company that has an online software program, www.getblazemark.com and have built billions of dollars of projects in multiple countries. You only pay for our program for the square footage you use - not a straight license, and you can share in read-only format with any mutual aid organization you would like. I am also a fire chief who shares preplans with neighboring depts., and teaches preplanning in fire science programs at local colleges.