Can you walk me through the problems you were facing with your previous software solutions and how First Due solved those problems?
Yeah, it's been quite a journey for us. When I first joined the department almost 16 years ago, we were using Firehouse Software, but it had its limitations. Our aim as an agency was to consolidate the amount of software we were using for different functions. We needed different software that could handle our training, maintenance, asset management, and personnel management needs within one platform. Unfortunately, the software we settled on was lacking in these areas as well.
One of the major pain points for our team was having to use multiple softwares and logins and enter the same information in different places. For example, our learning management system required firefighters to complete training modules in one software, then go back to another to record their completion. It wasn't interoperable, but it became a hassle for everyone involved. When I took over the logistical management of the department's assets, I realized that we lacked efficient record-keeping and a system to track work assignments and progress. Problems were being reported, but there was no organized way of addressing them. So, we started creating our own systems to manage these issues.
When we started looking for new software, our main goal was to find a solution that could streamline communication, recording, and tracking across the agency. That's when we came across First Due. It was evident that First Due had the right framework to empower our end users and allow them to report and assign tasks directly within the software. This streamlined the entire process, from the folks on the floor solving a problem to the ranks above them keeping track of progress. Even our administrative personnel could easily access work orders and enter information like purchase costs and specific notes when receiving invoices for repairs.
Can you describe in more detail how workflows have improved for front admin staff at York United Fire & Rescue?
We have an admin who handles our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). She's been able to input not only gear sizes but also has pictures of every single PPE with the corresponding NFPA label information. When she needs to send something out for repairs, she takes a picture of the damage, attaches it to First Due, and the process is set into motion. She handles all the maintenance requests and communicates with the vendors without me needing to get involved.
In the past, someone would just drop off damaged gear in a bag with a note. It was a cumbersome process of evaluating the damage and reaching out to different people. Now, it's streamlined and efficient. With First Due, everything is documented, reviewed, and organized. And I believe it will only continue to expand and improve in the future.
Can you describe the impact on your responders of using First Due for your Assets & Inventory Management?
First Due really impressed us with their asset management capabilities. We were able to customize routine checklists for daily, weekly, and monthly operations. The best part was that any problems reported in the checklist could be easily converted into work orders within the software, eliminating the need for separate processes and ensuring that all information was tied together.
One of the things that has really made a difference for our department is the addition of work order boards. In the past, we only used work orders for apparatus-related tasks, but now we use the system for everything from repairs on PPE to facilities maintenance. If someone notices a leaking pipe or damage to a door in one of our fire stations, they can follow the same process they would when reporting a problem on a fire truck. This allows us to keep track of every issue and ensure that it's addressed by the right people.
Now, we're able to say, "Hey, did somebody mention that the emergency lighting in the headquarters station is flickering three or four times a day?" and it gets escalated to the appropriate personnel. Having one complete system that handles all of our needs and is continuously evolving has been a real pleasure. It simplifies our processes and allows us to focus on our core responsibilities. Plus, it's great to have the peace of mind that every task is being tracked and completed efficiently.
Overall, First Due provided us with a consolidated solution that met our needs and brought all our operations into one software. It simplified workflows, improved communication, and gave us a comprehensive history of all our tasks and operations. Whether our users create a work order directly from a checklist or use the traditional method, First Due has made it easy for us to manage maintenance requests and keep everything organized.
Can you tell me about the challenges with previous scheduling systems and how First Due has improved York Area United’s processes?
Oh man, the old way of scheduling was a real pain. We had a manual process where we had to keep a clipboard with a list of names in a specific order. If someone called off sick, we had to physically call people down the list, hoping they would answer or call us back. Things got even messier during large incidents when we had to recall personnel. Our battalion chief had to rush back to the office to grab the list and start making calls. It was frustrating to say the least.
Now with First Due’s Scheduling module, it's like a whole new world. I can initiate a call shift, and everything is automated. The system tells me when the shift is filled, who's filling it, and I can even provide instructions for which station they need to go to. It's a huge time-saver and takes away all that manual phone calling. As for our responders, they can access their schedule anytime, right from their smartphones. They can request time off, check their overtime hours, and see if there's any availability to get off. It's all there at their fingertips, making life so much easier for all of us.
First Due's scheduling module has completely streamlined our operations. No more wasting time with manual processes or struggling to manage multiple labor contracts. It has made a real difference for us, and we couldn't be happier with the improvement.
Implementing technology can be challenging in the fire service, but it ultimately leads to significant achievements. Can you speak to some of the responses you've received from your crews?
For us, it wasn't a completely new introduction to technology. First Due took our fragmented systems and brought them together into one cohesive system. We had different systems for response, pre-planning, and records management. While they served their purposes individually, they were not as efficient as we wanted. First Due improved upon the technology we were already using and provided us with one sign-on system that everyone could access. This consolidation has been very welcomed, and our crews have been supportive and happy with the benefits it has brought.
We are still in the process of developing our community connect and pre-planning, but having a system where information entered the day before can be easily accessed and modified, and instantly available for our crews in the fire trucks through their iPads, has made a significant difference. Overall, it's been a positive experience for our department and has helped us modernize our operations effectively.
As a battalion chief, do you feel a sense of relief? Do you feel less stressed in your day-to-day after implementing First Due and modernizing your department's processes?
Well, there's no doubt about it. The relief of stress comes from knowing that the information is getting to the right people. We have a phenomenal crew of personnel who can accomplish anything when they have the right tools at their disposal, and First Due is one of those essential tools.
When there's an issue with a firetruck or an SCBA, I can rest easy knowing that the maintenance requests have already been delivered to the people responsible for making or coordinating repairs. I don't have to worry about sending emails or making phone calls from the office–It's as simple as checking the work order board. I can see that a request is there, and I can even track if it's under review, in process, or out at a vendor getting repaired. And once it's back in service, I can see that too.
Let me tell you, the anxiety and stress of trying to track every single item in our equipment list, which is now in the thousands, is impossible for one individual. It's like trying to keep all that information stored up here [points to head]. With First Due, that burden is lifted. I now have a powerful tool that takes care of all those nitty-gritty details, making my day-to-day operations a lot less stressful. I can confidently say that moving away from more traditional (pen and paper) methods and embracing First Due's streamlined approach has brought a significant sense of relief to my role as a Battalion Chief, and let me tell you, it's a relief that makes a world of a difference.
What's your experience with the First Due team and what sets them apart?
What really amazes me about my experience with First Due is the speed at which they operate. Sometimes it's even quicker than I expect, and it catches me off guard how fast a product or process improvement recommendation can get implemented and put out to the end user. Take annual testing for instance and managing testing for over a thousand pieces of hose. At the time, First Due was still refining its bulk testing feature. Overall, I felt the feature was lacking, and I even created a separate paper system to account for it. But before I knew it, I received a product update that included bulk checks, and it was a game-changer. I went in and checked it out, went through the tutorial, sent it out to my captains for them to review, implemented the process, and we were able to continue with First Due to record all our hose testing for the year.
That's what sets First Due apart: they really listen to your feedback and are quick to implement suggestions and roll them out to the end user. It doesn't take years, generally months or even weeks. It's truly impressive and makes a significant difference in our day-to-day operations. Plus, First Due’s products are so intuitive and user-friendly that even setting up a bulk check on our new hose inventory took just 10 minutes. Overall, I couldn't be happier with my experience working with the First Due team.
To wrap us up here, can you go into more detail about how First Due as helped York United Fire & Rescue be a data driven organization?
In the fire service, we're really becoming more and more data-driven, or at least we should be– that's where First Due comes in. First Due gives us instant access to good data, which is crucial. The user interface is so well-designed that we can easily enter accurate and reliable information. For example, we have monthly Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) checks, and First Due has a checklist for that. With just a few clicks we can instantly see which checks failed and identify the turnout gear that failed inspections. This data allows us to identify trends, spot potential issues, and plan for future budget cycles. The same goes for our apparatus equipment. I can quickly determine where we're seeing the most occurrences. It's not just internal operations either. We can use First Due to analyze incidents as well. We can generate heat maps, examine call volume, and even review response times—all in a user-friendly format. And the best part is, it's not just a few individuals looking at the data. Everyone in the organization can access and analyze it, fostering a culture of continuous improvement. So, for our organization, First Due's quick and easy access to good information has been a huge benefit.