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San Antonio Fire Department goes live on Emergency Technologies visual fire software

Written by Laura Matthews

In 1976, the National Fire Data Center of the United States Fire Administration (USFA) established the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). NFIRS provides the federal government with the ability to gather, store and analyze standardized fire incident information from fire departments around the United States. This system was also created to encourage state governments to report data in certain formats, for use on a local and state level, and to submit this data in NFIRS format to the federal government. Even though state participation in NFIRS is voluntary, oftentimes state and federal grant money is tied to whether or not agencies use the current NFIRS standard. This method ensures that the government can continue to receive valid data in the preferred format.

NFIRS makes up the largest fire incident reporting system meant to organize data on a national level, and it is one of the most successful tools implemented on a national level. According to USFA and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) statistics, more than 21,000 fire departments across the country report NFIRS information each year, and the participating departments report about 14 million incidents and 1 million fires annually. The current standard for reporting is NFIRS 5.0, which was released in January 1999.

Situation

Until recently, the San Antonio Fire Department was reporting in the NFIRS 2.0 standard, which was put into effect more than 20 years ago. The San Antonio Fire Department (SAFD) used NFIRS reporting software that was developed internally on a mainframe system. SAFD needed to report fire incident information in the NFIRS 5.0 by the end of 2008 to maintain eligibility for USFA grant funding. This federal grant money would be used for equipment and other departmental needs critical to public safety.

Solution

Emergency Technologies Inc. (ETI) executed a contract with the city of San Antonio to implement ETI’s Visual Fire, an enterprise-class public safety software solution designed specifically for medium and large fire departments. The project was to be implemented in two phases; Phase I would implement Visual Fire’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) module to allow the SAFD to be in compliance with the NFIRS 5.0. The NFIRS Module of Visual Fire provides fire personnel the ability to enter fire incident information in a user-friendly, software format to accurately report incident information in compliance with the NFIRS 5.0 standard.

Phase I needed to be implemented and operational before the end of 2008, a quick deployment into the 50 fire stations throughout the 412 square miles of San Antonio. ETI staff and San Antonio Fire Department personnel formed a project team to configure and deploy the Visual Fire software. From contract signing to live operational use of the system, it took about 3 months, which included training about 1,000 uniformed firefighters. Project time lines of this magnitude usually take years, however this project was completed within months due to SAFD teamwork and commitment the complete milestones and finish the project. On Nov. 17, the SAFD was live on the Visual Fire NFIRS module and could begin reporting fire incident information into the correct and current method.

Once NFIRS 5.0 reporting was in place and operational, Phase II of the project began. Phase II includes the implementation of the entire Visual Fire software suite, and the expansion of the system from the city of San Antonio throughout all of Bexar County Fire Departments. ETI’s Visual Fire solution will allow the city and county to have an integrated public safety information system to help streamline information sharing between city and county agencies.

About the Visual Fire Solution

Visual Fire is an application that integrates fire incident reporting, fire investigations, EMS patient care reporting, mobile field reporting, training and certification records, hydrant information and structural pre-plans, along with several additional modules. The software will provide the SAFD with modern technology that will increase operational efficiency throughout all the fire departments within Bexar County. Visual Fire will integrate with the San Antonio’s computer-aided-dispatch (CAD) and 9-1-1 systems so that caller information, call details, CAD times, and other CAD information can easily populate within Visual Fire reports. Dispatchers and first responders will have access to structural pre-plan information, which details hazards associated with certain addresses while en route to scenes. Visual Fire is built for multi-department operations, so San Antonio’s 50 fire stations can share information and keep information separate from Bexar County’s stations even though Visual Fire is operational throughout. Visual Fire’s multi-user functionality and role-based security gives users access to Visual Fire modules and functions that are applicable to their role within the department.

“The initial phase of the San Antonio project has been a tremendous success, and I think it further demonstrates ETI’s expertise in implementing a large-scale solution.” said Kyle Breischaft, president and CEO of Emergency Technologies Inc. “The speed in which this project was implemented shows SAFD’s commitment to making this project a priority.”

Conclusion

With the goal of providing San Antonio Fire Department the ability to submit NFIRS 5.0-compliant files to the government, Emergency Technologies delivered its NFIRS-compliant Visual Fire solution in three months. San Antonio Fire Department is using Visual Fire software to create and submit files directly from the software to the government, and it will continue to use the software for other departmental needs. ETI is implementing Phase II of the project and will continue to offer service and support for SAFD. For more information about Emergency Technologies or the Visual Fire solution, visit www.emergencytechnologies.com.

Laura Matthews is the marketing communications coordinator for Emergency Technologies Inc. She can be reached at laura@emergencytechnologies.com.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jan/Feb 2009

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