What made you realize that you needed to start looking at a new software provider? What were the modules that you were first interested in, and how did that interest grow as you learned more about it?
We had been using a different company for about two years that was doing all of our NFIRS data, property management, and pre-planning. What ended up happening was this company wanted to get our business, which they did, but unfortunately as time went on, they got too big for their bridges and were unable to keep promises that had been made. They put customer service to the side which led to a lot of my questions going unanswered, and when I ran into a problem I didn’t have the support I needed. I finally said enough is enough and decided I needed to find a new RMS software that was going to accomplish what I needed, as well as be the all in one package that could accomplish multiple tasks. I reached out to First Due after seeing some advertisements, and what I immediately liked about it was the time the team took to explain the program and the support I already had even in the beginning stages of the sales process. I was drawn to the program because of the all in one aspect, but I stuck with First Due because of the customer service I was given from day one. The First Due team was constantly asking us for input, and every time we came up with a solution or something that we needed, they were on top of it. To this day, they still provide us with the customer support that I haven’t seen in any other company.
How has the implementation process gone with switching over from your old provider to using the First Due suite? How has the process gone for you with not only learning it yourself but teaching it to your department at the same time?
The implementation process has gone really well! As far as getting it done, in the beginning stages I put a lot of pressure on First Due with a timeline of thirty days. Jamie and Erik were very upfront and honest with me that the development team could not deploy a full suite in that time frame, but they asked me what my top priorities were so that could be the main focus as we began the implementation. We ended up launching after a two month implementation, and Jamie and Erik handled much of the communication with our local communications center that takes care of regional dispatch for the majority of the towns in Middlesex County. That took a lot of pressure off of me during the process as well.
As far as implementation within the department, we have a lot of old timers who are very critical of programs and new technology, but I’ll tell you what, they picked it up very quickly. One of our chief engineers, who is always very skeptical of these programs, was extremely happy with First Due as far as the ease of use and the ability to adjust it to our needs. One of the most important aspects that First Due offers is the ability to adjust the program to your specific needs, where with other companies you’re getting a cookie cutter kind of program, which is not helpful in the fire service when every area and department is different.
You have a unique use case for Community Connect. Can you explain a little more about that and how it came to be?
We were faced with last minute information that each town was going to be distributed a certain amount of COVID-19 test kits. It was a Sunday, and the First Selectman had reached out to myself the Fire Marshal, the emergency operations director, and a few other key figures to come up with a plan of how we were going to distribute these kits to the correct people within the next 24 hours. We were given 500 test kits, but we were only supposed to give them to people in our respective town, rather than just anybody from anywhere who wanted them. I decided to take a chance and give Jamie and Erik a call to see if there was any way Community Connect could help. This was on a Sunday afternoon, and immediately Jamie and Erik picked up the phone and were ready to help. They figured out a quick way to accomplish what my objectives were by having people apply and register through Community Connect, which not only helped disperse the test kits correctly, but it also allowed us the opportunity to collect amazing data from our residents in the portal. It was almost like filling out your household information in Community Connect was a requirement for receiving a test kit. We ended up placing a temporary sign up sheet under the burn permits portion of Community Connect, and there they got to apply for their test while they filled out the rest of their info. Another thing that was incredibly helpful was that people were utilizing the self reporting feature in Community Connect while they registered for their test kit, which allowed us to look at a heat map of where the majority of our cases were popping up. We were actually able to generate more information through that than what the state had provided us on active cases in the town. Before we launched the COVID test kit program, we had 300 sign ups on Community Connect in about a month. After the test kit program, we now have nearly 900 sign ups, and we received only positive feedback from residents who used the system. It was perfect and overall an incredible opportunity for us and our town.
300 sign-ups in a matter of a month is a pretty great number. Can you tell us more about how you promoted Community Connect before you launched the test kit program?
Yes, it’s been awesome. I pushed it out on social media at first, and then I was very aggressive with my strategy of getting people signed up. I printed up the flyers that the First Due marketing team provided for me, and I walked down main street into each business and explained the program and walked them through the sign up process. I made phone calls, I continually pushed the Community Connect social media content that the First Due marketing team created, I did everything I could to get the word out. If you do the work, people are going to sign up, especially if you take the time to explain the program and the reason behind doing it, which is to keep our community safer. Most everyone I spoke to was in favor of it, and shared their appreciation to our department for putting a program in place that can help keep them and their family safe and prepared for anything. The program is called Community Connect, and that is one of the biggest aspects we need to adhere to as the local Fire Department, is doing what we can do to stay connected to our community.
As far as the rest of the modules, what are your favorites and what could use some enhancement? We love to hear feedback on how we can make First Due the most useful for you in the future.
The biggest thing for us and everybody’s favorite part of the program is Pre-planning. Having the ability to see pre-planned data as soon as we are dispatched is huge for us. The Asset Management module could use a little bit of work, but we enjoy it for the most part. The ease of use on assets as well as NFIRS is something all of our members, especially our older ones, really appreciate. As far as reporting, I am hopeful for a better system to generate reports based on incidents. It’s built out decently right now, but the enhancements to that module that I have heard the First Due team is prioritizing this year is something I am looking forward to. They have hit many home runs in so many aspects of the product, so I am excited to see what is ahead and how our department can keep benefitting from the First Due full RMS suite.