Chief, you're doing research on interoperability. Historically, achieving “interoperability” has been a challenge to apply across multiple domains, including healthcare systems. Can you describe some of your findings and what it takes to do what the North Fulton Automatic Aid Consortium Five Cities are doing?
Interoperability touches everyone: hospitals, fire, police, first responders --especially when you talk about responding to disasters. Interoperability also touches communications and technology, like data sharing. If you look at the interoperability continuum, it starts with governance and the decision makers getting together and agreeing to share data. That's what’s happened to us with our five cities. We decided to invest in data sharing interoperability. It takes leadership willing to invest in it. It takes initiative from a governance, and it takes a community willing to participate. I think it always starts at the local level.
Can you explain how Five Cities Auto Aid works and describe how First Due has enhanced the way your firefighters pre-plan?
We're a part of a Five City Automatic Aid with Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Sandy Springs, and Roswell, which means we have no jurisdictional boundaries when it comes to response. If an incident pops up in a certain address, the closest unit is dispatched by the CAD automatic vehicle locator and if we’re closer than Alpharetta, we respond and vice versa. Sandy Springs has high rises and a lot of apartment complexes. If they had a major three- or four-alarm incident, we’re probably going to be responding. Sharing First Due pre-plan size up data at our fingertips across our region helps us be more efficient and better prepared to respond.
First Due Community Connect is a huge piece of our pre-planning strategy. Milton is a unique community. We have a lot of homes that are large, with long driveways and gate access to individual homes. Some driveways are a quarter of a mile to a half a mile long. First Due gives us the ability to forecast and pre-plan our response. My firefighters can confidently say it will take 2000 ft of hose lay for a supply line to get water from a hydrant on the street up to the engine. Milton is also an equestrian community, so many properties have horses and barns. That's information that we need to know. We encourage the community to sign up and share that information. We also work with our city Equestrian Committee to promote and encourage participation in the pre-plan of equestrian properties.
All of this valuable information can be entered through Community Connect. Our crews can search for an address and pre-plan on the go. When they find something that could be a safety hazard, they can add that information for that address. So now when they respond, this critical information will come up on the First Due dashboard. With this technology, my crews can be a few steps ahead.
Can you tell us about the impact First Due has had on your department and how it has redefined interoperability for Milton and surrounding cities?
One of our strategic goals was to move everything into one suite where we can access our entire operational data, such as incident reports, fire inspections, hydrant information and pre-plans. We wanted to make sure that anything that has to do with our daily operation is in one suite and that everybody has access to the data. Prior to First Due, we had multiple platforms for different data. With First Due, we’ve been able to consolidate our data into one suite.
One of the biggest impacts First Due has had on Milton Fire is the visibility with our Five City Automatic Aid, most notably with Alpharetta Fire Department, our neighbor. Alpharetta implemented First Due pre-plans. Prior to this, we really didn’t have any access or visibility into their pre-plans for their hazards. In a lot of those commercial properties, we didn't have basic occupancy information. We didn’t know things like the Knox box locations, alarms, things like that. Since we implemented First Due, we can now share pre-plan data with each other when it comes to response. There are many benefits to this sort of interoperability. Crews can pre-plan their territory more efficiently and be more cognizant of hazards.
Do you see cost savings for business owners and residents by adopting Interoperability in the Five Cities Auto Aid?
There is huge savings to the community. Auto Aid Crews can access property pre-plan data through First Due regardless of the jurisdiction. When we respond, crews don't have to damage doors or entry points to access the home. Often, you arrive on scene and an alarm is going off, it's the middle of the night, you don't know who the alarm company is, you don't know who the owner is and you're chasing business contact information through dispatch. Dispatch might not have it, or the information they do have is outdated. Forcing entry could be costly to the community, so the ability to have access to information for emergency responders is a gamechanger for both parties.
As a Chief in the industry over 20 years, you’ve seen the fire service transform with a suite like First Due. What is it like having data ingrained in your operation?
When you invest in technology like First Due, you can make data-driven decisions. Data enables us to confidently justify certain funding initiatives when we present to our City Council and leadership. Becoming a data-driven fire department is about the way decisions are made based on deep analysis of facts, which creates a powerful data driven culture that supports our mission and vision.