Connecting fire inspection data with legacy RMS systems sounds great, but often reduces efficiency and creates unnecessary redundancies.
As a Division Chief at the Hall County (GA) Fire Marshal’s office, I get asked questions about all the different software we use on a pretty regular basis: What do we use for our records management system (RMS)? What do we use for training? And what do we use to complete our fire inspections?
Unlike some other jurisdictions still using paper forms and clipboards, at Hall County we use APX CityScape Suite for our fire inspections and pre-plans. But because mobile software to collect data in the field is still a bit new, one of the most interesting questions I often get is: How do you connect your mobile inspection and pre-planning data to your RMS and other systems?
It’s a great question. And my answer to it is always the same: We don’t.
After using APX for a couple of years, it has become really obvious that connecting it with legacy systems like RMS simply isn’t necessary.
This may sound strange to some. And, admittedly, at first we weren’t sure about this approach either. But after using APX for a couple of years now, it has become really obvious that connecting it with legacy systems like RMS simply isn’t necessary – and can even be counterproductive.
Let me explain. At Hall County, our RMS is used for emergency medical service (EMS) and incident reporting; every time the county logs a fire or EMS incident, it goes in that RMS. This information is pretty much irrelevant to fire inspections and pre-plans, where our past process was to collect field data on paper, drive back to the office and input it all into the RMS manually – basically doubling up our time spent on those inspections.
As you can imagine, this extra time spent inputting data into a system we couldn’t even use in the field, on a mobile device, wasn’t ideal. It was wasted time. On top of all this, producing inspection reports via RMS at month end was a complicated process that produced little value, included metrics we didn’t care about, and usually required my boss to log into the software and spend time on his end configuring the reporting module.
I’ve already gone on record about the benefits APX provides to our fire inspections and pre-plans: Not only is it easier and more enjoyable than manual data entry and paper forms, but it also improved our efficiency by more than 300%. I can also now produce nice-looking inspection reports for my boss, including high-level analytics tailored to our needs, with just a couple of clicks. This means that the only group that needs access to our inspections data is the Hall County Fire Marshal’s Office.
So, we don’t connect our APX CityScape Suite for inspections and pre-plans with our RMS because it’s simply not necessary. As mentioned above, because the software’s report creation process is so simple and doesn’t require others’ involvement. But it’s also a matter of efficiency. Adding APX data – which we quickly collect and upload on mobile devices – to our RMS would hinder the 300% increase in efficiency I mentioned, because it would add manual steps to the process that we eliminated years ago.
APX inspection and pre-plan data is so much more timely and reliable.
Questions about buildings, of course, will arise. Especially in commercial buildings that can change names, specs or occupants in a heartbeat. But because APX inspection and pre-plan data is so much more timely and reliable than what’s in a typical RMS (which usually contain data that may have been inputted years ago), we have way more confidence in the information we can pull up in APX than on virtually any other system we use. We are comfortable with APX being our system of record for Inspections and Pre-incident Plans.
These are the reasons why we don’t connect our RMS and fire inspection and pre-plan data systems.
If you’re doing fire inspections or pre-plans in your jurisdiction, you need to ask yourself how much data do you really need in multiple systems – and at what point does inputting it into other systems become unnecessary and counterproductive.
Author Bryan Cash
Mr. Cash has been with the Hall County Fire Department for 27 years and began working his way through the ranks and achieved the rank of Division Chief. He has a degree in Fire Science and he has been both a student and instructor for the National Fire Academy, other courses that he has graduated from include electrical analysis of fires, forensic interview techniques, and various other courses relating to the investigation and analysis of fires including his recognition as a certified fire investigator with the International Association of Arson Investigators. Further, his background includes career firefighter, police officer, paramedic, and criminal investigator. Mr. Cash has earned numerous awards during his career including the State of Georgia Fire Investigator of the Year for 2019. Currently, Mr. Cash oversees the Fire Marshal’s Office (FMO) in Hall County Georgia. The FMO comprises of personnel who serve to provide arson investigation, fire inspection, fire safety education.
You can listen to Bryan Cash on the webinar “The Power Of Data In The Fire Industry – Focus On What Matter Most”
COVID-19 has brought significant impacts in many areas for fire departments across North America. The rapid adoption of technology, helping fire departments stay compliant, under budget, and collect the building information they need.