Before Community Connect, what were your options for collecting resident information that would be relevant during the time of response?
Before our agencies were using Community Connect, we were only collecting information on our residents at the time of dispatch. 911 Operators at our dispatch center would gather critical details and complete an Access and Functional Needs (AFN) form during a call and pass those notes on to First Responders while they were en route to the incident.
With the exception of a few outliers and some anecdotal first hand knowledge, Fire & EMS crews did not have pre-established life safety profiles for residents prior to an emergency other than what was collected by dispatch operators during the call. Often that information was incomplete or inaccurate because the reporting party lacked that information or was unable to answer while under stress.
How do you see Community Connect making a difference for both responders and everyday residents?
I am hopeful that it will help with gaps we've identified in the Fire Department's ability to maintain current information on "keys, codes, and contacts" for both residential and commercial properties in our jurisdiction. Having this information is vital in our area as we have a large number of vacation homes, rental properties, and communities that require a gate code, or are occupied by our "snowbirds," meaning the property could be empty for much of the year. If we are called to a property and the occupants are not in town, knowing a gate code, where a key is located, and having a way to contact the homeowner or property manager quickly can make a huge difference in our response times. As more people sign up, we expect our response times to decrease and our efficiency to increase.
What was your decision making process like in rolling out Community Connect as a multi-jurisdictional project?
The agencies throughout our county already work very closely together. There are also areas that are not currently participating in the Community Connect program, and it made sense to include them because we have mutual aid agreements to respond to those areas. It was important to us that everyone in the area would be able to create a Community Connect profile no matter which fire department served them, especially since not everyone in the general public knows exactly which department's response area they are in. Rolling Community Connect out for all of us at the same time as a joint initiative helped reduce complications for both the participating agencies as well as for residents and business owners. The joint launch made the sign-up process much easier for everyone involved.
How has your experience been working with the First Due team to successfully launch your Community Connect program?
The First Due team has been very responsive and behaves like a partner rather than a vendor. Since the joint launch involved three different fire departments, with each department needing their own customized landing pages and marketing assets as well as a joint page and assets, we had many meetings with the First Due team to get everything just right. Both the Marketing Team and the Product Team rose to the occasion in developing different configurations to ensure all aspects of the rollout met the needs of all three agencies before it was released to residents. After the launch, First Due continued the partnership with regular check-in meetings, and had an immediate response when any issues, questions, customizations, or enhancement requests came up. The same process was repeated when the Commercial side of the program was announced.
How do you plan to grow your Community Connect program moving forward?
We intend to add customizations and specific enhancements to the materials the First Due Marketing Team provided us to communicate the benefits of the program in a way that’s most effective for our various communities. We'll start with print advertising, social media, and email distribution lists. We will also rely heavily on partnerships with Homeowners Associations and Property Managers, as well as utilize communication avenues like inserts in power and water company bills. Moving forward, we will definitely be working with local businesses and leveraging relationships with government and other community/civic organizations who are valuable resources for assistance in spreading the word throughout Eagle County.