While many departments are beginning to move beyond pen and paper truck checks to something more modern, there are some who have yet to make the switch. Although it seems clear that these holdouts are missing out on time saving and effectiveness for their own department, there is reason to believe that the costs of not upgrading are far greater. Without modern databases, fire departments lack the ability to make data driven decisions
In 2011, the National Institute of Science and Technology looked into potential applications for big data in the fire service. This summit encouraged data driven decision making but noted that in their current state, many departments lack the necessary data sources to tap into. “[Issues in data collection] are especially important issues for the local department to address. Once local departments begin to tackle their own database issues... it would further benefit scientific research. However, the obstacles to overcoming the gaps in our own data collection are common and widespread.” Essentially, the summit found that the lack of accurate data collection and modern data sources prohibited better data driven decision making.
So what are these “database issues” that are “obstacles to data collection”? Clearly the pen and paper apparatus checks are included in these prohibitive practices. When a check is done on paper and entered into a local database, there is a divide between how the data is gathered and where the data is ultimately living. Because of this gap, one cannot see the status of apparatus checks in real time, run up-to-date reports on check history, or make data driven decisions around managing your department's equipment . Relying on manual processes that require entering paper reports into a third party system puts your data at risk. Losing the report, forgetting to give to admin, entering wrong results are all potential outcomes with the current system.