What First Due modules are you using today?
We’re almost using the entire suite. We run Inspections, Permits, Community Connect, and we’re looking at next rolling out Scheduling, and Incident Documentation through First Due. Right now, we're working on ramping up our pre-plans and scheduling as a primary focus. As for myself, I'm a single-person division, so I've been utilizing Inspections and Permits and am getting the Fire Prevention Division on board as well in starting to incorporate their inspections and permits also.
What's your role with First Due? Specifically. How do you contribute to getting the platform set up?
In a way, I'm the Communications Officer for our department. While I have a role in fire prevention, it's almost like a separate entity within the department. I work hand in hand with two other members in the Fire Prevention Division. I aim to build the infrastructure and "tool chest" for them to utilize effectively. When I took on this role, it naturally became my job to roll out the product and oversee its implementation. It inherently became part of my role to ensure that First Due becomes an integral part of our department's operations.
As the Fire Alarm Superintendent (or, for lack of a better term, the Communications Officer), I am responsible for all information technology within the Weymouth Fire Department. This means I own everything related to the technological aspects of our department. It falls under my division to both maintain our existing technologies and incorporate new ones.
What makes First Due different from other vendors?
Finding software that caters to the needs of Fire and EMS professionals can be a challenge. With the previous RMS system we had, I didn't have a customer rep, just a hotline and portal. But with First Due, that's not the case. I love having a direct line of communication with the First Due team. We have a dedicated Customer Success Manager, Jamie Schwab, who has been instrumental in guiding us through the platform's capabilities.
When it comes to functionality on the fire prevention side, one of the things that sets First Due apart is the range of inspection types and permits that have been captured through other departments and agencies. Through the First Due team and their connections with other departments nationwide, I've pulled ideas for our own processes.
With First Due, we can simplify various processes and create a single, integrated checklist that incorporates all relevant code types and building types so that end-users, such as engine companies, can easily understand the standardizations set forth. They know the ins and outs of what we do, and are actively learning more everyday through collaboration with all the fire departments that use First Due and it shows in how they are constantly helping us optimize our suite.
When it comes to modernizing your department with technology, have you seen an all-in-one suite improvement?
In the past, it was common for departments to have separate software solutions for different tasks, which meant having multiple logins and piecing together other systems. But with First Due, it's an all-in-one suite. First Due provides a comprehensive set of tools and processes covering the many components involved in our daily operations.
It's convenient to have all of these tools in one place and not have to switch between different platforms or use pen and paper. My predecessor recognized the need for improvement within our department and took the initiative to find First Due and purchase their product. He saw the potential for modernization and incorporating more open-ended technology into our operations.
Deputy Myers was ahead of the curve, leading the charge in our area regarding embracing the benefits of technology. Other departments may not utilize technology or be open to it, sticking with the "if it's not broken, don't fix it" mindset. However, embracing technology has its advantages.
For example, we relied on a call notification system that dialed a phone number and recorded a message. Then, it transitioned to a digital version on a website, where it was a text-to-speech type of notification. But with First Due, we now have that capability integrated into the system. It's all about exploring the available options and leveraging the comprehensive nature of First Due to streamline our workflows and eliminate the need for those legacy systems. Now, I won't deny that there can be some challenges when transitioning from old habits and legacy systems to a comprehensive suite like First Due. It does require breaking those habitual patterns and adapting to a new way of doing things. In hindsight, it might have been a good idea to gradually introduce modules and ease into it. But we decided to go all-in and embrace First Due's full suite of tools.
Of course, at first, it can be overwhelming to see all the features and capabilities that First Due provides. There's so much to learn and explore. I've had moments where I've discovered new functionalities and thought, "Whoa, I didn't realize it could do this!" It's a learning process, and becoming a subject matter expert in everything First Due can be challenging. Everyone in our department must dive in and become familiar and well-rounded with the suite. When we're all on the same page and speaking the same language, the experience is much simpler and more efficient for everyone which I’m happy to say is occurring every day that more of our members engage with the system and finds its benefits.
In the end, I can confidently say that having an all-in-one suite like First Due has definitely improved our department's modernization efforts. It streamlines our processes, eliminates the need for separate software solutions, and provides us with the tools we need for a more efficient and effective operation. It's a game-changer, for sure.
Has First Due facilitated collaboration with Weymouth's mutual aid partners and neighboring departments?
First Due has brought a new level of collaboration with our mutual aid partners and neighboring departments. We presently only have one bordering agency using the system, however we would hope more would buy into the product. It's truly amazing to see how we can come together during a mutual aid incident and have access to their pre-incident plan data, including vital information like hydrant locations. Our partners can also rely on us for the same level of support and reciprocity. We now have a powerful digital tool that enhances our operations and collaboration with our partners. So yes, First Due has enabled better collaboration with our mutual aid partners and neighboring departments. It has enhanced our ability to share crucial information, work together seamlessly, and provide more service to our community.
Recently, Weymouth was featured alongside First Due's Community Connect product in the news. The article highlighted Weymouth's access to critical occupancy data before an incident. Can you walk us through how First Due helped assist in the house fire and helped your crews strategize your action plan?
I had a conversation with the first initial company officer who responded to the fire, and I asked them about their experience and whether they felt that the system helped them in any way. In fast-paced operations, especially for a first due engine company, there usually isn't enough time to look up all the information. However, access to this data can be incredibly helpful and valuable for second and third due companies, as well as the incident commander. They have a few more minutes to gather information, including the initial company officer's radio report on the conditions they found upon arrival.
Returning to the incident, the first initial crews had such a quick response time that they couldn't look up anything in First Due before getting to the scene. They received the call, immediately communicated that it was a working fire, and went to work. However, subsequent crews will often utilize the system to look up important information, such as the location of hydrants, ingress, and egress routes, and even specific details about the property. The system's features, such as displaying standpipe connections and alarm panels, are gradually being implemented and are set to enhance response strategies and improve overall operations.
Looking ahead, what new features and functionality are you looking to implement?
We're looking to implement First Due's latest feature - online payments. When I shared this new feature with my Chief, he was beyond excited. He said, "can we start doing this right now?" It's great to see his enthusiasm. Currently, our system relies on checks or money orders for payment during inspections. While most people we work with are used to this method, other agencies around us are starting to offer online payment options. We also want to get with the times and provide that level of convenience to our customers. Right now, the process is straightforward. We receive checks, which go to our municipal finance department for processing. But it can sometimes take some time for the money to reach us. Accepting payments online would speed things up and make the process more efficient.
However, there's still some groundwork before fully implementing online payments. I need to have discussions with our municipal finance team to ensure they understand our goals and can help us make the necessary connections. It's about providing convenience and efficiency to our customers while streamlining our process. It's an exciting journey, and I'm glad to dive into it and make a difference in our department.