Digital Pre-Incident Plans for Successful Fire Operations

By: Captain Michael Eastman

Tallahassee Fire Department

The trend of digital pre-incident plans for fire operations has greatly increased the capability of operational personnel at Tallahassee Fire Department. With technology such as our mobile data computers (MDCs) and app software, we now receive helpful data directly on our mobile devices. 

Pre-Plans for Fire Operations

Fire pre-plans are no longer solely a fire prevention task where paper forms are filled out, filed away, and probably never seen again. Now Command as well as operational personnel can quickly access pertinent data in the field. It’s as simple as typing in an address or tapping a dispatch notification, and all relevant information instantly appears.

Who Should Create Pre-Plans for Fire Operations?  

Fire Crews

The best people to do pre-incident plans are the crews that work in the response area. Knowledge of the response area and familiarization of larger, more hazardous buildings are paramount to the fire crews that go to these areas every shift.

Crews that go into the community and do their own pre-fire plans have a better understanding of each building’s layout: where the fire department connections are, standpipes, things they really need to know. 

Senior Firefighters Teaching Juniors

In addition, visiting the response area together allows a senior firefighter to teach the next generation of firefighters. Many junior firefighters benefit from going out into the community as part of a crew, and we use pre-planning as a type of training activity. 

As a result, young firefighters gain a better understanding of what we do in a given location. Rather than just being told to do something, they see first hand why we do what we do. This also reinforces our commitment to the community and making a difference.

Challenge: Paper Pre-Plans Ineffective for Fire Operations

The Problem With Paper Pre-Plans

Before utilizing digital pre-incident plans for tactical decision making we relied on a binder of hand-drawn plans. The early pre-plans were usually limited to mainly high hazard areas because we couldn’t keep all commercial properties in a single binder.

Due to the limited nature of paper pre-plans, the building data would not necessarily have been available to first-in crews and operational officers away from the command post. Plus, many commercial buildings would have no pre-plan at all.

Moving Toward Technology

As time went on, the Tallahassee Fire Department moved toward new technology to increase the safety and success of fire operations. First, we installed MDCs with computer-aided dispatching and mapping software in all our units. 

Then, at some point we decided to scan our paper pre-plans into pdf forms and put them on our MDCs. However, when it came time to use the pre-plans, it was hard to find them and hard to move from screen to screen for the officers. As a result, pre-plans got overlooked and lost their value for operations. 

Solution: Fully Digital Pre-Incident Plans

Pre-incident plans for fire operations

Eventually, we discovered FlowMSP’s fully digital pre-incident plans and moved away from creating and maintaining paper pre-plans. We found this way to be much more efficient and sustainable for our department.

For fire operations, fully digital pre-incident plans provide more information that is readily accessible to our crews. Because the program automatically organizes all the information, crews can locate the correct pre-plans at a moment’s notice.

It also greatly helps us to have a lot more commercial properties documented through digital pre-plans. Because the digital pre-plans are so much faster to create and take less room to store, we now maintain many more pre-plans than we could previously handle.

Increasing Efficiency of Fire Operations

Utilizing FlowMSP for fire operations really impacts our efficiency. In this apartment complex pre-plan, for example, we found stairwell access to the parking deck. Then, we used the symbols and text bubbles to paint a better picture for our crews going in there.

pre-incident plans for fire operations

Digital Pre-incident plans for fire operations

We have the crews indicate these areas so they can make a quick response. Rather than having them try to find things in the dark at 3:00 in the morning or hidden in the bushes, they clearly see key items in the picture. This allows everyone to find things faster.

Clearly Understanding Key Information

The pdf pre-plans we previously used were hand-drawn and hand-written diagrams. Often they were poorly drawn and hard to read. In contrast, FlowMSP provides everyone with clear, concise information.

With this program, once we get a tone for a particular location, we quickly pull the location up on our mobile devices. From there, we easily see any data related to the incident location, including pictures, annotations, and high hazard notes.

Pictures speak a thousand words, so just seeing the pictures gives us so much more information to aid fire operations. Utilizing digital pre-incident plans to get that visual layout goes a long way toward successful fire operations.

Adopting Digital Pre-Incident Plans for Fire Operations

Since moving to the digital format for pre-plans, suppression personnel at Tallahassee Fire Department really like how easy and quick it is to access vital information in a timely manner. In addition, as we build our database with more and more pre-plans, the usefulness increases.

Our crews anticipate receiving more and more vital information to help us gain awareness prior to arrival on scene. The members of our department from young to old are realizing this type of information is the way of the future, and it’s going to help them prepare for success.

Get Started with FlowMSP

Catch up on pre-plans and easily maintain high quality pre-incident plans with FlowMSP. If you want to ask questions and see how FlowMSP can help your department, request a web demo. A member of our team will respond.

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