Can you tell us more about Great Falls, MT, and some of the growth you've seen in the area?
Many surrounding cities like Bozeman, Missoula, and Flathead Valley have grown. Many people are starting to move to Great Falls, and a lot of commercial growth is occurring here overall. We also have a significant military presence with a military base on the east side of town and a National Guard on the west.
With the extreme growth in the community, Great Falls was looking to upgrade their fire and EMS operations. What were the key differentiators when deciding to go with First Due?
Before the growth here in the community, many modules that First Due had to offer were nice to have, but now they are necessary to run our operations and successfully keep everything under one roof. We're taking things that have historically been left on the cutting room floor of software priorities and putting them at the top of our list. With First Due, everything is brought to the forefront because everything is interconnected and linked.
The big selling point for us across the board is that First Due is an all-in-one suite, and each area of our fire operation is connected. First Due is user-friendly; our crews can pick it up and use it immediately.
Now that you have your entire operation in one platform and data is more accessible, what has your experience been using First Due as your all-in-one suite?
Our day-to-day operation runs on First Due. We're using First Due for everything we do here in the department. We use it for all our incident reporting, EMS reporting, apparatus management, and fire prevention services.
We're coming from the old dark ages of pen and paper to modern technology. Everything we need is at our fingertips. Responders can access information and data more quickly, and our operations run smoothly. Regarding emergency response, we can reduce response times, render aid more rapidly, and generally provide better customer service.
A crucial part of First Due is being able to go out and work with the pre-planning portion of the platform. Our crews now have more access and information on buildings when they're on the scene. It's something we've never really had before. One of the most significant initiatives we are working on is getting all our existing pre-plans into First Due. The goal is for deputy fire marshals and our crews to have information on hand at the time of response and have access to it right on their dashboards.
What has the reaction been among your responders internally to the transition from pen and paper to First Due?
The reaction has been excellent, and the transition has been phenomenal. The training that we've received from First Due has been fantastic. I like First Due's model of training the trainer and equipping administrators up to speed with knowledge base articles and training materials to train crews.
Have you or anyone from the department ever recommended a feature or expansion of the platform and saw First Due implement the functionality?
Yes! I've enjoyed working with First Due to develop the Fire Investigations module. I've worked with Client Success Manager Jeremy Shively and Product Expert Chris French to provide user feedback and drive the workflows that address our problems. Whenever I described a problem or made general recommendations, they responded quickly. They took the time to understand my issues as a user and ensure that the functionality of the Fire Investigations module was fit for the end user.
What other First Due functionality do you plan to implement?
We're about six months into using First Due and just scratching the surface of what the platform offers. We are working with First Due to roll out unit tracking. Interoperability is a huge priority for us, and First Due is a tool that enables us to achieve this concept. Soon, crews can see where each unit is in real time.
Diving into some of the administrative/operations-focused modules, how has First Due changed how your department manages schedules, assets, and inventory?
The scheduling module has made the work for our battalion chiefs much easier. One of the battalion chiefs came to me on the first day he did his scheduling, and he said tasks that generally take him 45 minutes, he can now complete instantly. The crews can sign into First Due on their phone, request time off, and submit it for approval on the fly. Before, they would have to come into the station, file paperwork, and submit the request manually. That process could have been more efficient and made requesting time off difficult for the team. With First Due, they can put the time in from anywhere and plan further in advance.
We are still learning the ins and outs of the assets and inventory management module, specifically about the apparatus and the apparatus checks. We have yet to get any feedback from our city shop folks that are linked into it when we write up documentation that needs something needs to be fixed. Still, we see the work orders going through all the time, so it is operating how we anticipated it would.
It's no secret you are passionate about rolling out the Community Connect program across Great Falls, MT. How are you planning to get buy-in from the community successfully?
The community risk reduction that Community Connect offers is one of the driving forces behind us going with First Due. Cities all over Montana are experiencing a growth spike. Here in Great Falls especially, we want to get ahead of the growth curve and set our sights on community risk reduction.
We started by promoting it on our social media and setting up interviews with local news outlets and radio stations. We also announced the program at our Home and Garden show, which attracts close to 10,000 people. I've also presented it to the neighborhood council and local community stakeholders. We've made a considerable effort to get the word out to our residents and business across Great Falls. You can check out my interview with The Electric here, where I go into more detail about launching Community Connect.
We intend to work closely with commercial properties and large facilities to get their information into Community Connect. We target large facilities, including school districts, hospitals, and large commercial properties. The best part of Community Connect for these businesses is the notifications system. If first responders get dispatched to an address, the business contact will receive a text notification and a heads-up that we are responding. Before crews arrive on the scene, they will also have all the necessary information, such as access information, alarm details, and more.