This month, we spoke with Cotuit Fire Chief Christopher Olsen who recently acquired the StationSmarts platform for his department’s data management needs. It was a lively and informative conversation during which we learned a great deal about the 30-year industry veteran’s passion for his work and lifelong commitment to public safety. Chief Olsen has led the Cotuit Fire Department since 2008.
Q: Please give us a brief history of your career in fire service.
A: When I graduated from Springfield College with degrees in psychology and emergency medicine in the mid-1980’s I was seeking a profession that involved safety and rescue. I started as an EMT in Springfield, MA and then became a police officer for a few years. During that time, I realized that my ultimate goal was to enter the fire service. I joined the Barnstable Fire Department in 1989 and worked myself up through the ranks there, earning the position of deputy chief in 2004, and eventually becoming chief in 2008. I love my job and live and breathe my work. My department is one big family to me. It’s true that firefighters always enjoy talking to each other and sharing ideas.
“I love my job and live and breathe my work.”
Q: Do you have any family connections in the fire industry?
A: Before me, there were no other firefighters in my family. One of my happiest experiences has been to watch my younger daughter follow in my footsteps to become a firefighter herself. She is an independent-minded young woman who told me of her decision to join the fire service when she was still in high school. Today, at 27 years of age, she and her husband are both full-time firefighters in New Hampshire. I am extremely proud of the impact my work has had on both of my daughters throughout their lives.
Q: What are some unique characteristics of Cotuit, MA where you serve?
A: Cotuit, MA is a very small port village, situated along the Atlantic ocean, only 5.2 square miles in size, home to about 3,000 residents and 24 or so commercial businesses. Our community is extremely forward-thinking and always willing to support the fire service. In this region, Sandwich and Cotuit were the original two fire departments, founded in 1926. Cotuit is proud to have had the first motorized apparatus. (see picture) My department reports to a 3-person Board of Fire Commissioners, a group that has decision-making power on budgets, purchases, personnel and policies.
Cotuit Fire Department answers about 900 calls per year; an average of 2 – 3 calls per day. 75% of these are rescue-related calls and 25% are fire-related calls. We employ 12 full-time firefighters and a growing cadre of certified, on-call firefighters. My team works 24 hour shifts, 5 days on, 5 days off.
“Our department is the heart and soul of our district.”
Q: What precipitated your decision to invest in a data management system like StationSmarts?
A: Up until now, Cotuit had been using several software systems: Firehouse for our inspections and ImageTrend to keep track of our fire and EMS incidents. I was eager to find one platform that could support all of our department’s data collection and accessibility needs. My requirements for a new system included everything that StationSmarts offers: mobile and web access, the ability to communicate data in real-time, easy data input on site via the iPad or other tablet or mobile device, and more accountability, professionalism and time-savings. StationSmarts gives us all of those attributes and more.
Q: What are the most important pieces of data you track every day?
A: I would have to say #1 is Personnel data, whether I’m tracking their progress, safety, equipment or training needs. It all starts with the firefighters. Other priorities include community safety, inspections and public education. Keeping departmental data current and easily accessible makes it easier for me to inform our constituents and town officials. Managing our data correctly helps us to see our strategic plan unfold into the future.
Q: What would you say to other chiefs considering an investment in StationSmarts?
A: I would tell them, “You should look at this program and give it a shot. It’s fantastic because it is practical and dynamic, changing and evolving to meet the needs of the departments that use it.” “It can be utilized in so many ways and even better, it’s strictly fire based. This is the product you want for your department.”
Thanks to feedback from Chief Olsen and others like him, StationSmarts continues to add to our list of features and benefits. Please contact Dave Rocco for more information about StationSmarts or to schedule a live demo at your department.