What were your early thoughts around First Due and what inspired you to begin making a transition with your software?
I am always interested in new technology and finding new ways to better serve our community. I knew First Due clearly had a vision for change and for a new perspective, and not just the same old with a new face on it - I saw the ideas that were going to disrupt the market.
When we had our initial conversation, it was in the context of pre-plans. We had just launched an internal pre-plan software with our GIS department – it was similar to what First Due was doing but wasn’t quite as robust. Since we had just launched this other software over the past year, we weren’t actually in the market for pre-planning, but First Due was super interesting to me so I kept it in my mind and the conversation evolved from there.
What were the features you found sticky and interesting that made you keep First Due at the top of mind?
A few months after our initial conversation, we were looking for a new electronic solution for truck checks and asset management. During COVID, we learned that we needed a better system for logistics. We needed to better manage what supplies we had and better prepare for supply chain disruption because our process was all manual and there was a clear gap for us to improve on. We looked at five asset management platforms. First Due was the last one we looked at, and let me tell you how the dynamic changed in the room after that. We had seen other asset management platforms that at that point in time were more robust, but we saw the vision of First Due, the future market disruption they would bring, who they were hiring, and how they were going about business. I was in a room full of people who I knew were not afraid to take risks and try new things, even with technology, and in that moment we all stopped and said, “Hmm, First Due might be the train to jump on.”
From there, we went from thinking First Due was only for pre-planning to wondering what else they had to offer. At the time, it was a lot of mock-ups and ideas that were in development, but we loved the idea of where it was going. We also loved the idea of getting in during development so that we can really work with First Due by testing things out, seeing what we like and don’t like, and helping form the future. I think it really inspired people to feel that we could be part of this disruption and part of something new that’s going to be better than what anyone else has.
We looked deeper into Assets & Inventory, which turned into talk about Scheduling, and then we were looking at Pre-Plans, Inspections, and Community Risk Reduction. Community Risk Reduction is something important to me and something I wish more Fire Departments understood and took on. Once we realized the difference all of this being in one place would make, that's when it really stuck.
You mention that Community Risk Reduction is a high priority for you. What do you mean by that and how do you see First Due fitting in your vision for an ideal Community Risk Reduction program?
A few years back, I took a class on Community Risk Reduction. I’ll tell you now, it’s by far the best class I ever took. A colleague of mine in the class showed me what research can do for risk reduction. Research led him to figuring out that unpaid water bills correlated to high fire risk. When times get tough for people financially and they can’t pay their bills, they start using alternate methods for utilities, like heating their house in the middle of winter - which we all know is a leading cause in house fires. After seeing that correlation, I dug into our own response data and history because I wanted to know how many firefighters and civilians were being injured per year in our multi-family dwellings. To say it quickly, we now do much more diligent inspections with our enforcement team.
I don’t think enough Fire Departments wrap their head around potential risk and that their pre-plan software can actually help identify that. The idea that First Due can provide us a single database to pull all the information and allow us to cross-reference historical risk to potential risk in our community – now that will allow us to make accurate real-time decisions. It comes down to pulling all the information together before something happens, rather than waiting to handle it after something happens.
Most of us are saddled with so many disparate systems that don’t connect with each other, but with First Due there is the potential to pull it all into one. We can now have a single database that allows us to see scheduling, NFIRS reports, and firefighter injuries and issues that are going to come up due to shift trades and so on. It allows us to look at this from a risk management perspective and start to quantify what facilities are going to be at high risk for fires, especially since 40% of the Burnsville community is in rental housing, most of which are older buildings with no fire suppression systems.
Our goal is to be ahead of the curve and have a risk management model that can mitigate incidents from ever occurring, or when it does occur, lowering the risk and the penalty for both civilians and firefighters. Long term, this will give us a forum to engage the public because at the end of the day, community risk reduction is a two-way street. We will be informed and educated with their information, which in return helps us provide the best service we can to the public. We can engage community members to be stake holders in their own safety and make them feel a part of a team through this approach. All of this is a new way of thinking about the fire service, but I believe, once First Due is fully developed, it has the opportunity to be a one-stop shop for everything a fire agency needs.
Switching gears, can you talk us through your experience with the First Due team as implementation has begun?
It's been great so far, and that's entirely because the First Due team didn’t leave once they sold us something. There have been so many times with other companies where I signed on the dotted line and then the phone lines went to voicemail. In my experience, success with companies - particularly software companies, is to have direct communication.
First Due has given us both an Implementation and Client Success team that we are in direct communication with, and when we do have a problem and need to call, they can actually help us solve that problem. I’m not having to call an 800 number or give a ticket number to someone who doesn’t know my system, then wait for them to contact someone who does. Instead, I have a First Due team that knows immediately about my problem. They communicate with me and take care of it as soon as possible. I feel like I have already created a relationship and a foundation with the First Due team, and I feel like they know my workflow and processes, which is a key piece to both of our success. It’s nice to see a team instead of a log in screen, and I can tell the First Due team is motivated to come in and make things better. They want to make the product work for us, rather than us changing how we work for the product, and I will always be willing to partner with that.
As the Implementation process moves forward, can you tell us what you would like to see accomplished as Burnsville grows with First Due?
As of right now, I am just excited to see how many pieces are already coming together. Everything is connecting and that is all I can ask for, but I do see wanting more integrations in the future. Cameras, investigation data, learning management systems, etc. are all little things we are working with every day, so eventually seeing all of that come together in a one stop shop is something I would love to achieve.
Another thing I hope to accomplish as we roll this out is broadening our scope. I think everything involved in First Due goes well beyond fire. If we need this information, so does our Police Department, so ensuring that they get access and learn how to make use of this platform is going to be very key in us creating a safer community. Module wise, First Due is hitting everything we need from a fire perspective, and as we move along in the implementation process, I’m seeing more and more of what we are going to be capable of doing – it’s really exciting.