A new App will allow the Smithers Volunteer Fire Department to arrive on scene faster.
At the regular Town of Smithers council meeting July 8, fire chief Keith Stecko unveiled a new application, called Active911, which the department recently put in place.
It’s a digital messaging system that delivers alarms, maps, floorplans and other critical information to first responders in real time. It has completely changed how they operate when they receive a call, Stecko said.
Because the department can track members coming to the hall, they are able to be more prepared and arrive on scene quicker.
“We know immediately how many of our people are responding to the hall and we can literally pull up our pre-fire plans on the move and look at how we are going to be dealing with this emergency,” Stecko said. “We now know the locations of all our hydrants instantaneously. We had all that information before but we would have to go to a map somewhere on the scene and decide where we were going to stage our vehicles.”
Active911, accessed through iPads in all of the fire department’s emergency response vehicles, replaces a huge amount of paper-based information that was previously used to assist firefighters when out on a call and before they left the fire hall.
Now, when calls come in, all pertinent information is available immediately to any firefighter with a smartphone.
“It’s a very powerful tool,” Stecko said, adding there are other iPad applications that complement the Active911 system like a guide of hazardous materials. “The biggest selling point is the sharing of information live, in real time. It keeps everybody informed as to what’s going on.
“It’s very hard to manage on-scene when you require so much information. One of our major challenges, day to day, is we are constantly fighting time. We have to continually find efficiencies in how we respond to emergencies.”
The conversion was accomplished within the fire department’s 2014 operating budget, Stecko reported to council.
The iPads were in the neighbourhood of $6,000 and the annual cost to subscribe to Active911 is $521, he said.
“I’m super impressed,” said Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach. “I think it just shows our fire department is ahead of the curve when it comes to communications and ensuring they have the most efficient and effective response possible. I think it’s wonderful for everyone in the community to know they’re being so proactive in terms of new technology.
“Considering how significant an improvement it is, the investment is just an incredible value for the taxpayer.”
In situations where seconds and minutes are critical, Stecko said he believes Active911 will translate into a better response time for the fire department.
“I think this is a very effective way for us to be able to deliver a public service from a safety perspective in a far more efficient way than we have in the past.”