Every once in awhile, you are privileged to connect with a person who is so generous of spirit, so knowledgeable, so committed to his craft, you recognize immediately that you want him on your team. That’s what happened when the StationSmarts crew first met Chief Anthony Stowers of Maynard Fire Department in Maynard, MA.
Early on in his tenure with Maynard Fire, Fire Chief Stowers knew that he needed to find a digitized software system that would allow him to collect and store all of his records in one place. When he became chief in February 2012, the department was using a program just for their NFIRS incident reporting, but all their other reports – personnel, inspections, etc. – were compiled on paper, and resided in a filing cabinet. The chief was determined to bring his station’s record keeping into the 21st century.
The timing couldn’t have been better. StationSmarts founders, Dave and Greg had just sent out an email to New England-area chiefs, asking for their participation in the development of a data management software platform exclusively for fire departments. When Chief Stowers saw the email invite, he eagerly accepted and hasn’t looked back. Over five years later, he remains a reliable and valuable resource, testing modules, offering feedback and providing ongoing support by speaking to his fellow chiefs about what makes StationSmarts unique.
In a recent phone interview, Chief Stowers recounted his involvement with StationSmarts and how it has significantly benefited his department’s record keeping operations.
(SS): What are the key pieces of data that your department tracks every day?
(TS): Outside of NFIRS, it’s inspections, 26F inspections to be exact. We are kept very busy with a steady stream of real estate transactions and our ongoing need to conduct smoke detector inspections for the required closing certificates. What used to be a cumbersome process: fill out the hand-written inspection form, back to the station to sign it, fax it to the designated parties and then make and store paper copies, has completely changed, thanks to StationSmarts. Today, we conduct our inspections on our ipad, recording our observations on the 26F module in StationSmarts. We sign it electronically, and email it directly from our mobile devices. A copy of the inspection certificate is automatically stored in the Cloud for easy retrieval. This has made our daily lives a lot easier, for sure.
What used to be a cumbersome process: fill out the hand-written inspection form, back to the station to sign it, fax it to the designated parties and then make and store paper copies, has completely changed, thanks to StationSmarts.
SS: How has the NFIRS module made a difference to your department?
TS: I’ve seen our NFIRS reporting become far more accurate and consistent since using the StationSmarts NFIRS module. Even for the reluctant adopters to today’s technology, using this software platform has been a fairly easy transition.
Another major benefit for us is that we are able to keep and maintain our records on one single platform. We simply search the StationSmarts daily Activity Tracker where we can filter all of our NFIRS narratives and everything else we did that day. StationSmarts’ NFIRS module covers the majority of our incidents on one form, alleviating the need to bounce between multiple pages. Also, it’s tied directly to the dispatch CAD system so times and addresses go in automatically even before my crew begins using the NFIRS narrative template. Much of the work is done before they even open up the form, saving us time and the need to re-enter information.
I’ve seen our NFIRS reporting become far more accurate and consistent since using the StationSmarts NFIRS module. Even for the reluctant adopters to today’s technology, using this software platform has been a fairly easy transition.
SS: What are some other ways you’ve seen improvements by using StationSmarts?
TS: As chief, I like to be able to go in and take a quick snapshot of what my teams have been up to over time. I’m also a stickler for decent narratives. It’s important to provide a good description of what happened on an incident, so that we can refer back to learn from it or pull a copy of the report in the event of legal action. I don’t know of any firefighter who got into this profession to write reports! StationSmarts allows me to go in at any time of day to make sure the narratives are being done accurately and consistently. I look forward to seeing StationSmarts continue to add to their collection of narrative templates. Accurate reporting on more complex incidents provides us with a wider perspective and helps us gear up for future training, look at patterns of behavior and address areas for improvement.
SS: Thank you, Chief Stowers, for this ongoing, productive exchange of ideas and for sharing your goal-oriented approach to running your department. We look forward to continuing to support you and other chiefs who have come on board with us at StationSmarts. We are grateful to you and your fellow chiefs for allowing us to stay true to our motto: Smart Records Management Built for Fire Chiefs, By Fire Chiefs.