Sponsored by Tyler Technologies
By Laura Neitzel for FireRescue1 BrandFocus
When a tire warehouse in Indianapolis caught fire, citizens had some understandable concerns about environmental impact. The media started asking questions like, “When was the last time this building was inspected?” Unable to readily lay their hands on the inspection records likely stored on paper somewhere in the file room, the Indianapolis Fire Department didn’t have a quick answer.
“When you’re under the pressure and the media is asking you all these questions, you have to produce,” said Chief Courtney Gordon, division chief for the Fire and Life Safety Division of the Indianapolis Fire Department. “Unfortunately, it took us a while, so at that point, it was like, ‘We need to find a better method.’”
IFD began searching for a way to do inspections electronically and store and retrieve the information in an efficient manner.
Moving from paper to a mobile solution
MobileEyes is a suite of mobile applications designed to improve public safety by supporting fire prevention, emergency response and structural safety. The MobileEyes suite helps boost prevention efforts by facilitating how inspectors conduct inspections in the field and makes critical site information gathered from those inspections available to firefighters.
These tools have become an integral part of IFD’s fire prevention strategy, enabling them to move from a manual, pencil-and-paper process to a much more streamlined and efficient electronic workflow.
MobileEyes consists of five modules, with MobileEyes Inspector at the heart of the product suite.
Making inspection and reporting more efficient
“MobileEyes Inspector is the solution that allows life safety inspectors to perform inspections of existing structures and new construction of buildings,” said Joe Krehel, general manager of the Tyler Technologies’ MobileEyes business unit. “There are also add-on modules like Company Inspector that allows a company of firefighters – which are also called fire crews - to do preplan surveys and low-risk inspections, augmenting the work of full-time inspectors and extending their reach.”
MobileEyes Inspector gives IFD’s deputy fire marshals the tools they need at hand to complete a fire inspection efficiently and accurately, including prior inspection history and references to the current fire code. This way, the owner not only receives the information, they also can see exactly how it’s described in the fire code, says Gordon.
IFD also uses the MobileEyes Company Inspector module, which makes it easy for the department’s company inspectors to update information like occupancy or changes in ownership. If violations are found, MobileEyes triggers an alert reminding IFD to re-inspect after 30 days. It also helps IFD schedule the next year’s inspections.
“Each company gets about 20 inspections apiece, so we try not to send them to the same place every year,” said Gordon. “At the end of that season, we’re able to forecast and send them to a different business the following year.”
Adding more eyes to identify issues
MobileEyes doesn’t just capture information from inspectors and company inspectors. It also allows fire alarm and security system contractors to report all their fire protection and data through the MobileEyes Contractor Portal.
“That’s been one of the biggest benefits of MobileEyes,” said Gordon. “We’re up to about 143 contractors now from any fire protection company that’s in our jurisdiction. They have to report all their fire protection and data to the MobileEyes Contractor Portal.”
As soon as those reports are filed by the contractors, any critical issues trigger instant notifications to Gordon and the assistant fire marshal so they can immediately address the issue with the building owner.
“As the fire marshal, I’m required to get reports with regards to the fire protection systems in my jurisdictions,” said Gordon. “Basically, it helps me know how healthy we are and how healthy the buildings are – but more importantly, it lets me know if there are some problems.”
Staying ahead of risks
“I guess if you go up ten thousand feet, the whole purpose of what we do is risk mitigation,” said Krehel. “I say this kind of jokingly, but it’s true – we help fire marshals sleep at night. What we’re all about is providing the tools so that they really have a good handle on what’s going on within the structures within their community, that they know where the risks are, and that they are able to stay ahead of those risks.”
As an administrator, Gordon says MobileEyes gives him an instant gauge of progress. He can quickly create any number of reports that tell him how many inspections have been done by an individual inspector or the department as a whole, the number of inspections by building types, or the number and types of violations cited, or complaints received. He can also access information on a specific property, including what type of fire protection equipment is in the building, what size of water main it is connected to, what violations have been cited and whether they have been corrected.
“At the end of the year, I can just hit a button and it can show me how many complaints we had, what we did with those complaints and if they were resolved,” said Gordon. “I can call the complainant back and let them know that the issue was resolved and thank them for their proactive approach to having a fire-safe community.”
Keeping firefighters safe
Another module, MobileEyes Responder, can integrate with a department’s computer-aided dispatch system or directly deliver and display electronic preplan and hazmat information collected from inspections done using MobileEyes Inspector. MobileEyes Responder makes that critical information available to firefighters in real time so they know what the structure consists of, what materials were used in construction and whether there are hazardous materials on site. They can even view maps that show how to get to the access point and the connections in order to attack the fire.
Completing inspections and preplans is valuable to reduce risk, keep people safe, keep the costs of potential loss down for the community and share that data with first responders so that firefighters and occupants are safe, says Krehel.
Going back to that tire fire, Gordon remembers that “there were a lot of questions, as it should be, because that’s our job. We’re the professionals. We’re supposed to have that information.”
Gordon no longer has to worry that the department will fall short when it comes to having the right information at the right time to keep city officials and the public informed.
“MobileEyes has helped tremendously with that,” he said.