When asked what your favorite part of your fire service job is, we’re willing to bet you wouldn’t say “data management.” Even though it’s not typically the most appealing aspect of the job, we all know that fire department data management is a very necessary part of the gig. We may not have signed up to be data managers, but that’s what we become as soon as we begin our fire service careers. Whether it’s logbook entries or incident reports, or more extensive data management as we move up the ranks, having a solid grasp of data and the technology behind it is essential to ongoing success. Fortunately, there are many great apps and software programs out there that can make the data management requirements easier and more efficient. Check them out below:
Microsoft Office 365 / Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Office 365 is the must-have software. We all know about the essentials like Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, but one feature launched only a few years ago has proven to be extremely handy when it comes to running a fire department (especially with ones with multiple stations): Microsoft Teams. Teams is a proprietary business communication platform developed by Microsoft, as part of the Microsoft 365 family of products. This gem of a program, similar to Skype for Business, was designed as an all-around collaborative platform, offering chat, voice, and calling features. You can share documents, work together on those documents in real-time, and create working groups for your divisions, shifts, and crews. Emergency Reporting and Rover employees rely on Microsoft Teams, and it has proven to be an essential communications tool for those at our headquarters in Bellingham, WA as well as for those of us that work remotely.
No more jotting down passwords on sticky notes, or constantly having to reset a password because you’ve forgotten it. In this digital world, where everything requires a password and the threat of a breach in online security is a legitimate concern, using a good password manager is extremely helpful. Many of us have too many passwords to count, and each site has different password requirements – it’s become nearly impossible to keep track of them all on our own. Once you start using a good password manager, you won’t have to worry about remembering any of your passwords.
A must-have feature of a good password manager is the ability to access it across any of your devices, whether mobile or desktop. That means updating a password on your smartphone will also instantly sync and update on your laptop or other devices.
There are many good password managers out there. Two of the most popular, affordable options include LastPass and 1Password. According to CNET, a few other apps worth considering include Bitwarden, Dashlane, Keeper, and KeePassXC. Most of the top password managers offer a free version or a free trial, so you can check them out and see which ones suit you best.
"En Route" and Alerting Software
Software that can provide critical information about getting to and managing the incident can make your life so much easier. We’ve identified a few programs that can help you manage the often-overwhelming amount of information coming at you during an incident response. The first on our list is (you guessed it): Rover, Emergency Reporting’s cloud-based notification and response platform. If you’re not familiar with Rover yet, here’s a little info: this mobile app empowers users with the ability to pinpoint each responder using GPS and on-map tracking to calculate the ETA of all responders in real, real-time. It also integrates with your device navigation app for turn-by-turn directions. Rover stores and displays hydrants, hazards, and preplans to make incident management smarter and safer.
Another useful “en route” app is ICx, powered by Battalion 3 Technologies (Batt3). ICx is an intuitively designed tactical worksheet that integrates staffing to create a full-fledged accountability tool. According to the Batt3 website, the team developed ICx because of their frustration with what was being offered for digital command options. They wanted to create something to use in their jobs that would work effortlessly during emergency responses, and they wanted it to be as easy as writing on a tactical worksheet, keeping a detailed record of resource assignments, tracking individual members, providing several scene timers, and not requiring a long learning curve
Screen Capture Software
Screen capturing software can really come in handy for fire chiefs because sometimes it’s just easier to show a solution instead of trying to explain it. Both major operating systems come with built-in tools: MacOS has keyboard shortcuts and Windows has the Snipping Tool. But for heavy lifting, capturing screen scrolling, creating annotations, and editing, we recommend something that can do the “heavy lifting” – like SnagIt by TechSmith.
Online Meeting Software
Online meeting software like Zoom or GoToMeeting has come in handy for all types of businesses and agencies across the globe during this time of COVID-19, social distancing, and the need for virtual meetings. Fire Chiefs and emergency response agencies can greatly benefit from taking advantage of online meeting software. You can use online meeting software to easily communicate with your city council, fire district board, or for conducting a public education webinar for the community, for example. You can use it to communicate with your officers or for holding an impromptu interdepartmental training by setting up a session and sending out invites to participants.
Mobile Mirroring Software
If you ever want to share something on your phone with more than a couple of people, mobile mirroring software such as Reflector 3 or ApowerMirror comes in handy. This type of app will enable you to mirror your iPhone to your MacBook Pro, for example, and share exactly what you’re doing on your phone with a larger audience. If you’re needing to train the crew on a new app or how to do something within your records management system, mobile mirroring software is perfect for that. Some other good options to try are AirServer, Mirroring360, or you can try AppleTV with iOS devices or Android’s built-in mirroring using Miracast or Chromecast.
That’s a wrap on our top must-have software programs for highly productive chiefs. We hope these will help you navigate the ever-changing digital environment we are immersed in every day.