By: Joylyn Ortiz
“Identifying what was out there, what needed to be pre-planned, what had been done, to what extent it had been done…it was really a big headache and hours of work.”Captain Bryan Menke, Rock Community Fire District
Rock Community Fire District had a pre-planning program in place, but administering it was too time-consuming and labor-intensive. They needed an easier way to track pre-plan completion and hold personnel accountable for results.
Achieved 100% pre-plan program completion tracking and accountability using FlowMSP technology
Rock Community Fire used a variety of different pre-planning solutions throughout the years. Starting with hand-drawn pre-plans, they moved to CAD-drawn plans, then tried other digital pre-planning solutions before discovering FlowMSP. The biggest problem with every program they tried was identifying which pre-plans needed to be done.
With over 1,000 commercial structures in their district, pre-planning program administrators struggled to maintain pre-plan records for every building. Further, there was no way to tell which records were 100% complete and up-to-date versus partial or outdated pre-plans.
“Before we started with Flow, we were pretty confident we had at least something done on most of our occupancies, but there was no way of really knowing. Flow went in and was able to identify 90% of our commercial buildings and trace the structures. But then we faced the problem of not knowing what pre-plans had been done on them, and to what extent.
When we do our pre-plans, we want the overhead picture with some symbols around the building, some info about the different construction types and features, occupancy, and some sort of floor plan, especially for bigger buildings. Before we started this project, we would have to open each pre-plan and look at it to see what had been done.”Captain Bryan Menke, Rock Community Fire District
When FlowMSP learned of Rock Community’s challenges, Flow invited them to participate in a special project to pioneer a software solution. The goal: to create accountability and easy pre-planning program administration tools for every fire department.
When Rock Community partnered with FlowMSP to develop an accountability solution, they started by identifying all the buildings that should have a pre-plan. FlowMSP used an auto-tracing technique with satellite imagery and GIS shape files to identify and trace the outlines of 90% of the commercial buildings in the district.
Then, once the structures were traced, FlowMSP pulled the address for each building into a spreadsheet-style list. As a result, personnel could easily sort the addresses, see the scope of the district, and understand which buildings were still missing. Rock Community could then follow up and manually trace the remaining 10%.
Next, because Rock Community was already a Flow customer, FlowMSP pulled data on their existing pre-plans into the spreadsheet view. Based on NFPA 1620 standard requirements for basic pre-plans, FlowMSP created columns for these basic pre-plan elements:
After the columns were filled with pre-plan data, FlowMSP added a % Complete column to calculate percentage of completion for each pre-plan. Then, they added columns for Last Reviewed Date and Last Reviewed By to provide a layer of accountability for what had already been done.
In addition, Flow included a Review Status column based on the Last Reviewed Date and Rock Community’s standard for how often pre-plans should be reviewed and updated. This column calculated which pre-plans were updated, which were due for review, and which were outdated and urgently needed updates.
A third layer of accountability was a column for assigning pre-plans to individual field personnel (not pictured for privacy reasons). That column made it clear who was responsible for completing each pre-plan, and it gave administrators a clear line of sight on whether or not someone was doing the work.
Finally, FlowMSP color-coded the spreadsheet to show the status of data in the different columns. This allowed Rock Community to quickly see and understand which data was complete, which was outdated, and which was missing. The prototype tracker was complete.
After the prototype pre-plan administration tracker spreadsheet was built, Rock Community was ready to begin assigning pre-plans. Instead of relying on the fire marshals to relay pre-plan data to the whole department, Rock Community opted to deploy fire suppression field personnel to collect pre-plan data.
To start, Captain Bryan Menke identified captains on shift in each still district who could be responsible for pre-planning. Then, Menke identified the addresses within each still district and assigned each company a certain number, to be completed within the month.
“Back in October-November 2021 we really got the crews out on the street to do a test run to determine how many pre-plans we should assign to each company per month. We threw out a number and tried to get 5 per company per month. So 45 pre-plans per month would get completed.
The guys all reported back that it was a very user-friendly program. We gave them basic commercial buildings, and they got all the basic pre-plan information in there very quickly. Will we stick with 5 per month, will we ask for 10 per month? That remains to be seen.”Captain Bryan Menke, Rock Community Fire District
Once the pre-plans were assigned to each company, Rock Community’s administrative team began tracking pre-plan completion. As field personnel completed different pre-planning tasks, FlowMSP pulled data from the platform and populated the tracker spreadsheet, updating the percentage, date, etc. for each pre-plan.
As a result, when Captain Menke reviewed the tracker, he could see exactly who had done what, and which pre-plans were still untouched. This lead to an easy accountability structure for pre-plan completion.
This dashboard project has been very helpful to see what hasn’t been done recently. And for our battalion chiefs, I can give them a report of which captains have been doing pre-plans, and which ones have not been doing pre-plans. Then, they can get out there and get them done. It has taken something that was really just cumbersome, just a nightmare for me and the pre-plan committee to orchestrate, and it’s really simplifying it for us.Captain Bryan Menke, Rock Community Fire District
After working with Captain Menke and Rock Community for several months on the test project, FlowMSP learned enough to start building a pre-plan completion tracker into the FlowMSP program. The new feature would essential replicate the spreadsheet Menke had been using, but it would live within FlowMSP and automatically update.
As FlowMSP began building the new tool, they relied on feedback from Rock Community about what was working in their test, and what they needed Flow to build. As a result of this collaboration, the new FlowMSP Administrative Dashboard began to come together.
“I’ve had a few meetings with the guys who are creating the Flow admin dashboard, and they kind of picked my brain to see what a fire department would need. They asked how we would track and QA pre-plans so they could put all the data together into two separate sheets. On one I can see all the details of the buildings and the pre-plans for each. The other shows a bare-bones view of the assignments and who has gotten things done.”Captain Bryan Menke, Rock Community Fire District
FlowMSP built the Admin Dashboard to achieve all of Rock Community’s main goals:
Captain Menke had access to beta versions of the dashboard ahead of its release in February 2022. The results checked all of the boxes.
“Now when I look at the dashboard information, I’m able to see the buildings in the district and see which still area is responsible for each building. I can look down the list and see the target hazards and the percentage of completion for that pre-plan. I can assign out the target hazards to the still districts and make sure the pre-plans are getting done for our highest hazards, first. Then, I can have them move on to the lower hazard buildings.
It’s made it much more user-friendly for us to see the really important buildings that need to be pre-planned, where are we in that process. Before, I could assign a pre-plan to a company to get done, and they would say it gets completed, but without going into each pre-plan and looking at it, we couldn’t see if it was completed. This way, we can look at the dashboard and see that they took six pictures of this building. We can see that they added a floor plan, and building data. We refined the strategy for assigning pre-plans, and we are able to get them done much more effectively.
We’ve gone through many phases and formats of doing pre-plans, trying to reinvent the wheel at each stage. Holding people accountable to get the work done was a big challenge. It took a lot of legwork. Now with these reports, any day I want to look into it, I can see how a captain at a particular house is progressing on his assigned pre-plans, and I can check in. It makes accountability much easier, and I can give a report of who’s doing the pre-plans to the battalion chiefs to follow up. It’s right there in black and white.”Captain Bryan Menke, Rock Community Fire District
Because the Admin Dashboard displays the date the pre-plans were last updated, the records can be used during ISO evaluations and accreditation reviews. As Rock Community pursues a lower ISO rating and accreditation, the dashboard tools will aid in recordkeeping.
Another challenge Rock Community faced before using FlowMSP was receiving the pre-plan information from the fire marshal’s division, on a spreadsheet which then had to be deciphered. Keeping pre-plans updated proved especially difficult for strip malls and occupancies with frequently changing tenants.
Now Rock Community is sending fire suppression field personnel out to collect the information as well, and they share data with the fire marshals in real time. Captain Menke outlines the benefits of partnering with the fire marshals for pre-planning.
“The fire marshals look at a building from a different perspective than field personnel. When we take our crews in there, we look at it as, if I’m in here when it’s dark and smoky, and hot, what is the layout like? What kind of hazards are in here? One thing that Flow has helped with as well is merging the efforts of the fire marshals’ office and the fire suppression crews. We were both getting information, but we couldn’t share it very easily. Now the fire marshals and the crews both have access to the program, so either one can put info in there live, and it’s instantly shared. Both benefit.”Capatin Bryan Menke, Rock Community Fire District
With the conclusion of Rock Community’s test case, the department has achieved 100% tracking and accountability for pre-plan completion. Now, not only can they easily identify which pre-plans need to be done, but they can also easily see who is responsible, and whether or not they followed through.
Because FlowMSP built the tools Rock Community needed, pre-plan program administration is easier than ever, and Captain Menke has everything he needs to ensure program success.
“Working with FlowMSP and the staff there has been top-notch. I can’t think of a negative thing to say. Their communication is very consistent, and they are able to answer questions right away. They’ve gone over and above anything we’ve experienced before, as far as, what does it look like for fire departments to have good pre-plans on every building in their district, and how do we go about doing that.
What I’ve been a part of is helping to develop this dashboard program. It’s made it very user-friendly from my perspective as an administrator. What used to be a headache and hours of hours of work to figure out what has been pre-planned…it has taken those hours of work and made it very simple. That info has been given to me on a sheet that I can see very easily on the computer.
The information that we’re getting has changed the way we are able to assign pre-plans, our strategy as far as getting hazards done first and working our way backwards from there to some of the less dangerous buildings. Working with Flow has been a really good experience for us all around.”Captain Bryan Menke, Rock Community Fire District
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