Case Study – Successful Implementation of Fire Department Pre-Plan Software

How a U.S. fire department used a multi-stage strategy to reduce adoption hurdles to successfully integrate fire incident pre-planning software


The key to a successful implementation is a carefully targeted multi-stage initiative.

Addison, IL
  • 10.01 Square Miles
  • Estimated Population: 39,942


Addison Fire Protection District
  • Full-Time Career Department
  • 3 Stations
  • 60 Firefighters and Officers
  • 5,000 Calls per Year


The Need to Implement Fire Preplan Software

Addison, IL

Prior to adopting fire preplan software (FlowMSP), the Addison Fire Protection District (IL) recognized that their existing incident pre-plan process was ineffective. First and foremost, their existing written pre-plans were stored in binders or on a USB flash drive, making them difficult to access and employ. More importantly, these written plans required a substantial time investment to create which meant not all structures in Addison had pre-plans.

Additionally, Addison FPD was in the process of seeking accreditation from the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI). This process requires a high degree of information gathering, to include pre-plans.

These issues left Addison FPD in the position of operating at fire scenes without enough pre-plan information at hand, or the ability to efficiently acquire and use this information going forward to accreditation.

To solve these issues, Addison FPD turned to FlowMSP.

In order to successfully integrate FlowMSP, Department Chief Leone and Deputy Chief Kramer instituted a multi-stage adoption approach to full implementation. This targeted initiative resulted in Addison FPD creating 3,362 NFPA 1620 pre-plans in just six months, 794 of which were fully equipped with supporting imagery; a number that continues to rapidly increase every day.

Fire Preplan Software Implementation Process

The Data Flywheel

With any new software implementation, the customer needs to see value in the product in order to continue using the product. For FlowMSP, firefighters need to be able to use the platform at incidents in order to recognize the value FlowMSP offers. The catch-22 for implementation of any fire preplan software, however, is that the software needs to be populated with data by the customer before the customer can begin using the platform successfully.

To overcome this hurdle, FlowMSP and Addison FPD elected to employ a “data flywheel” concept. Like any flywheel, a data flywheel needs an initial ‘push’ of data before it will sustain its own momentum. For Addison FPD specifically, DC Kramer chose to withhold full implementation until he could get the platform populated with enough data to be useful on a routine basis.

By addressing implementation in this fashion, Addison firefighters began seeing value shortly after full adoption. Additionally, this “starter data” gave the platform in-service usage while firefighters continued to pre-plan the remaining structures in Addison.

Stages of Implementation

Stage One: Populate fire hydrant locations; link CAD systems; trace all industrial, commercial and unique hazard structures

Hydrants – The backbone of any fire attack is the availability of a water supply, and often, this can be the most valuable aspects of fire preplan software.

In order to ensure the thousands of fire hydrants in Addison were properly located within the platform maps, FlowMSP implementation specialists coordinated with Addison FPD on sourcing hydrant GPS data from local water utilities. Once sourced, the implementation specialists loaded the GPS coordinates of each hydrant before manually checking accurate placement. FlowMSP performs this service for every customer.

Link CAD systems ­– One of the key value propositions offered by FlowMSP is the integration between existing CAD dispatching and the platform. Once established, FlowMSP receives CAD information from dispatch centers which gives the user the ability to locate a corresponding pre-plan with a single click.

Establishing this link is part of the initial implementation package offered by FlowMSP to every new customer.

Because FlowMSP is a cloud-based fire preplan software solution, Addison planners were able to complete basic pre-plans without even leaving the firehouse; at a rate of 200 to 300 traced structures a day.

By limiting stage one efforts to just tracing, Addison FPD planners could generate a basic pre-plan in less than a minute, leading to massive throughput in a short period.

Industrial Buildings and Unique Structures – The next step in stage one involved Addison FPD pre-planners using FlowMSP to trace all industrial and commercial structures in their response jurisdiction, thereby creating NFPA 1620 basic pre-plans for each building traced. To amplify their response value, Addison FPD also chose to focus on structures that presented unique hazards or conditions for fire attacks, such as long setbacks or approach restrictions.

Creatively, DC Kramer chose to delegate these tasks to a few of his administrative staff. Because FlowMSP is a cloud-based software solution, this personnel was able to complete this task without even leaving the firehouse, at a rate of 200 to 300 traced structures a day.

It is important to note that by tracing a structure in FlowMSP, the platform automatically calculates square footage, target fire flow and selects the nearest hydrants to exceed that rate. So, by limiting stage one efforts to just tracing, Addison FPD planners could generate a basic NFPA 1620 pre-plan in less than a minute, leading to massive throughput in a short period. Despite taking less than a minute to create, these basic plans were functional pre-plans, meaning Addison FPD would be seeing value immediately after fielding the platform department-wide.

Stage Two: Backfill addresses, building data and imagery to Stage One structures

After populating the platform with traced structures, Addison FPD began stage two by returning to stage one structures and adding in supporting data for each structure.

fire preplan software displaying a long hose stretch

As DC Kramer intended on using FlowMSP as their primary mapping solution, particular focus was paid to ensuring the address for the physical structure matched the address displayed in FlowMSP, and that the addresses in Addison’s CAD system correctly routed to the physical address.

Stage two also saw supporting imagery being added to stage one structures. By leveraging the impressive customization options in FlowMSP, DC Kramer determined that a top-down view of each structure should be the first image presented by the pre-plan.

Addison planners utilized the measuring tool in FlowMSP to ‘pre-measure’ the distances from central hydrants…giving incident commanders easily referenced data about how much hose a particular stretch would need.

From this top-down view, each side was labeled (A, B, C, D), along with utilities, FDC, and alarm panels, giving an initial ‘quick hit’ of information that is easily referenced by responding command officers.

As part of the imagery added in Stage Two, Addison FPD’s planners also added easily referenced images that showed special-use information. For instance, part of Addison FPD’s response area includes unincorporated areas with few hydrants, leading to a possible situation where extensive supply line stretches are likely.

To provide this critical information, Addison planners utilized the measuring tool in FlowMSP to ‘pre-measure’ the distances from central hydrants to dry areas and then created images of these measurements. These images were then uploaded to the pre-plans for structures that required a long supply stretch, giving incident commanders easily referenced data about how much hose a particular stretch would need.

Stage Three: Roll FlowMSP out to the department for use; encourage firefighters to submit errors found from Stages One and Two

Following the sufficient completion of Stages One and Two, DC Kramer opened FlowMSP up for use in the field by command officers during actual incidents occurring in Addison.  

Command officers were encouraged to submit feedback on the function of FlowMSP, as well as how accurate the platform was between dispatched CAD information, the pre-plan displayed, and the physical address of the structure.

To ensure continuity of fixing errors, DC Kramer created an email template that contained all the information necessary for FlowMSP to adjust the platform.

Stage three was also the moment when the data flywheel began operating under its own momentum. Because DC Kramer carefully planned Stages One and Two, command officers in Stage Three were able to utilize complete pre-plans immediately.

In Stage Three, the data flywheel has enough momentum to sustain forward growth. At this stage, there is enough data in the platform that command officers were able to use full pre-plans immediately.

The end goal is adding pre-planning to each firefighter’s regular workflow, ensuring that Addison FPD’s pre-plans are continually updated in accordance with NFPA 1620 and that firefighters are regularly visiting structures in their response area during non-emergency instances.

Stage Four: Institute training program so line firefighters can preplan any buildings in their jurisdictions not covered by Stage One or Two.

Stage Four is the long-term final stage of implementation for Addison FPD and will be ongoing. As command officers become more comfortable using the preplan software, and successfully implement it into their daily workflow, the remaining task is to train Addison’s line firefighters on how to utilize FlowMSP.

To tackle this issue with continuity and oversight, DC Kramer opted to create a training program through the online training management system Target Solutions. By utilizing Target Solutions, Addison training officers can closely track the progress of each firefighter, ensuring that each member is sufficiently trained in how to create pre-plans in FlowMSP, as well as how to utilize the program at an incident scene.

As training propagates, and Addison firefighters become competent using FlowMSP, firefighters will be assigned to complete pre-plans within their company’s primary response area. These assignments will be tracked, and each firefighter will receive continuing training credit.

The end goal is adding pre-planning to each firefighter’s regular workflow, ensuring that Addison FPD’s pre-plans are continually updated in accordance with NFPA 1620 and that firefighters are regularly visiting structures in their response area during non-emergency instances.

Fire Preplan Software Implementation Results

The critical difficulty of a large-scale software adoption in the fire service is getting the line firefighters to both buy into the software, while simultaneously seeing the direct benefit enough that they are motivated to add detailed information of their own accord.

In the case of Addison FPD, DC Kramer ensured that a systematic adoption strategy was put in place prior to attempting to integrate FlowMSP with department operations, leading to a successful transition to in-service operation.

FlowMSP is adaptable to every customer’s needs and was able to integrate the data flywheel concept with the direction that DC Kramer sought to go.

With FlowMSP, Addison FPD was able to take firm control of their pre-planning issues, leveraging that difficulty into a major asset for incident commanders. At the time of this writing, Addison FPD is quickly moving towards DC Kramer’s goal of pre-planning every single structure in their response district; a goal that would have been incomprehensibly difficult to achieve with paper pre-plans.

Overcome the Hurdles to Fire Preplan Software Implementation

Insufficient pre-incident planning is often cited as a contributing factor in NIOSH Line of Duty Death reports. We understand adopting new programs in the fire service can present hurdles that can be difficult to overcome. Many departments have "tried it", "stopped using it" and "abandoned it".

FlowMSP is fully committed to eliminating those hurdles in any way we can. Don't let "it's too hard" or "I don't see how we could accomplish that" stand in the way of increasing firefighter safety and providing better fire protection for your community.

We guarantee FlowMSP will be the last fire preplan software you'll ever have to try.

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James Warnet

James Warnet

James is a third-generation firefighter hopelessly invested in the fire service. To date, James has been a firefighter/EMT for 17 years and currently serves with the Mahwah (NJ) Fire Department, Fire Rescue Co #1, as a firefighter and public safety SCUBA diver. He is the recipient of multiple lifesaving, CPR, and valor awards, as well as three Hurst Green Crosses. Outside the fire service, James is a writer and all-around tech junkie who is passionate about finding ways to leverage science, tech and information to keep firefighters safe and more effective. James also served five years, active duty, in the US Marine Corps, and received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Ramapo College.

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