Mutual Aid and Auto Aid Data Sharing for Fire Operations

By: Battalion Chief Brock Herion

Addison Fire Protection District

Mutual aid and auto aid data sharing is an important trend for fire operations right now and into the future. Especially for departments in urban or suburban areas that run a lot of calls for neighboring agencies, building and location data sharing increases safety and efficiency.

Mutual Aid Data Sharing With Wood Dale

Our neighbors to the north in Wood Dale, IL allow Addison FPD to share their information, and we share ours with them. That means if I access an address in Wood Dale’s district during response, I easily see their pre-incident survey photos and building markings. 

Using the pre-incident planning and operations program we both share, I view Wood Dale’s divisions and photos of the building, plus their hydrant locations, hazards, and building information. This provides an advantage to me as an incident commander.

In addition, the crew members view mutual aid agency pre-plans. Because we ingrained in them the importance of reviewing this data, they pull it up during response. Whatever they are assigned, whether it’s water supply or ventilation, they pull the building specs on the way to the scene.

Accessing Mutual Aid and Auto Aid Partners’ Data En Route

Our troops have been uber-aggressive with getting into the FlowMSP program to review mutual aid and auto aid partners’ data while en route. They look at the pictures, look at the pre-plans, the hydrants. Sometimes even as they approach the location, they discover a better position for staging  in relation to hydrants or other possible hazards.

Getting all members to look at the data during response is a matter of practice. As chief officers we really force-feed that new idea of looking at a mutual aid or auto aid partner’s data as helpful to fire operations. For us, the effort really pays off on a lot of different levels. 

The Most Helpful Mutual Aid and Auto Aid Data

Mapping and Routing Data

First, from my car I view the route to a neighboring agency’s incident location, taking a glance at the streets and obstacles near the building. Mapping and routing data helps me quickly make tactical assignments in a less familiar area.

Sometimes I go to a neighboring agency, and I am the first chief officer on scene. To identify a street name correctly, set up staging, or put a vehicle in a certain position, map data is very helpful. It gives me assurance to make correct assignments in unfamiliar territory.

Hydrant Locations and Water Supply Data

Second, I review the hydrant locations and water supply. I need to direct that second or third company to the hydrant locations, especially if that first engine needs water supply. In a mutual aid or auto aid situation, viewing the agency’s water supply data makes us more efficient.

Missing a Hydrant

Recently our department responded to a call in a Wood Dale residential area. Our first two rigs took up the position on the south side. They walked into the building for a fire alarm, and who knew it was actually a fire? So the crews went to work.

I tried to assign the third vehicle, which was an engine, to get the hydrant on the west side of the drive and come from the north, thinking all members were looking at hydrant locations on the FlowMSP screen just as I was. 

However, I had two separate crews drive down the east side of the street and completely miss the assignment because they were not using the data available to them. They missed the hydrant even though it was clearly indicated on the FlowMSP map.

Photos and Annotation Data

Finally, during an incident I pull up the incident location’s building photos and annotations. I make them available in the car so, as crews come up to me, we review them together. Then, when I say, “I want you to go here,” they see it on the screen and know exactly what I mean.

This creates efficiency in operations. Because members get that quick look, they easily recognize the right area of the building when they go to work. As a result, they spend less time searching for things, especially in the dark or heavy smoke conditions.

In addition, the photos and annotations contribute to firefighter safety. Giving members a visual for landmarks and key building features helps keep them from getting lost. They carry that picture fresh in their minds going into an unfamiliar building, especially for hazards.

The Future of Successful Fire Operations

Mutual Aid and Auto Aid Data Sharing

As technology advances, the future of successful fire operations will include regular mutual aid and auto aid data sharing. Sharing only gets faster and easier as new technology comes out. Because members can access information like never before, we will see more usage.

I imagine future fire operations will always include a quick review of mutual aid and auto aid data en route and on scene. Why wouldn’t all departments use available technology to keep their people safe and effective? 

We already see the benefits at Addison Fire Protection District, and we look forward to more and better ways to use mutual aid and auto aid data to improve fire operations.

Start Sharing Mutual Aid and Auto Aid Data

Are you ready to start sharing mutual aid and auto aid data? Request a demo to learn how FlowMSP can help you and your neighboring departments get started.

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