ProPhoenix software solutions are improving response time, increasing safety and taking fire department operations to a new level

Written by Mitchell Krugel, NJ Fire Magazine
Photos by Amber Ramundo, NJ Fire Magazine 

When one of the 6,500 annual calls comes in to the Hackensack Fire Department, the chain of response ignites with peak efficiency. Fire inspection has filed a report on the structure, so dispatch can relay any potential obstacles or barriers that might challenge fighting the fire. The incident commander has a full account of the crew taking the response. The best routes to the building and the nearest hydrants come up on monitors in dispatch as well as on tablets in command vehicles, and flags come up on the screens about hazardous materials that might be lurking in the building.

By the time the crew is ready to drag a line up the stairwell, firefighters know whether there might be a stability issue or even a hole in a floor to avoid. A multitude of other data is also flowing through the system to promote firefighter safety and the fastest possible response time.

Hackensack’s unparalleled response is making use of the ProPhoenix way to fight fires and optimize public safety response. ProPhoenix, which has become one of the leaders in providing operations solutions to public safety, features an impeccable reputation built on its continuously evolving and improving suite that includes such innovations as the Phoenix Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), Phoenix Wireless Digital Assistant™ (WDA), Phoenix Fire Records Management System (RMS) and Phoenix Citizen Services Program (CSP). The 10-year-old company has spawned a culture of managing public safety operations that exhilarates its users to live and breathe the ProPhoenix way.

"I love the tracking of everything and that we have the ability to put it under one umbrella," expresses Hackensack Fire Department Deputy Chief John Niland, the department’s operations chief who has led his agency’s implementation of the ProPhoenix system that launched on Jan. 1, 2016.

"The system allows the management and monitoring of everything that’s going on," Niland continues. "Even if I’m out of state, I can bring it up on my laptop and make sure that everything is running smoothly."

ProPhoenix currently is in the midst of its best year ever with departments in Washington, Nevada, Florida and Texas joining its hubs in Moorestown, New Jersey, and Brookfield, Wisconsin. The company’s focus on designing its products from the users up has achieved a data-generating, warehousing and application system that provides unmatched detail in knowing what firefighters are up against on each and every call.

All of this comes at a price lower than any of the ProPhoenix competitors, though a thorough review of the system would confirm that there really are no competitors developing this much software to elevate department operations.

"There’s no other product out there that integrates and links everything together like our all-inclusive philosophy," asserts ProPhoenix Vice President Jeff Reit, who was the company’s first customer in 2005 when he was the administrative captain at the Wauwatosa Police Department in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.

Or as James Madisen, the ProPhoenix Fire Products Manager specifies: "I think we currently have 16 to 17 modules in our software to help fire departments and the fire service as a whole manage core objectives. At the end of the day, if we can’t take all that important information and make it available to the boots on the ground at the instant they need it, then we are not doing as well for them as we can. And as we should."

Boots on the ground is one of Madisen’s famous reference points and favorite sayings. The ProPhoenix way is all about the boots on the ground; the products are designed to enable management to give the firefighters on the line everything they need to succeed and all the information they need to know what they’re up against whenever they respond to a call.

Make a wish

The ProPhoenix way often begins with presenting a department a full-scale demo that simulates real-time and real-world application. Before the demonstration starts, a team member often asks about the department’s challenges and problems, which usually gravitates to a what-do-you-wish-it-could-do conversation. The requests he often hears pinpoint the ProPhoenix power.

"We wish we had a program that integrates all our data."

"We wish we didn’t have to come back and manually enter all the data."

"We wish we had mobile access."

The wish list also includes not having to buy a seat license every time a new user is added. ProPhoenix offers several options for installations from a one-time, one-fee site license to a cloud-based, ala carte option all of which provide access from anywhere in the world. Nearly every function a department can think of to improve response, increase safety and make operations management more reliable is provided.

Reit and Madisen offer an inside look at the products that come alive at the demos here:

Starting with the CAD, any fire or EMS department will find call entry and dispatch functions to get responders to an emergency with critical information at their fingertips. The software interfaces with all E911 systems to allow automatic entry of information in the call-taking screen.

The CAD facilitates a dispatch duet with one person taking the call information that another can send to the responders as it is loaded. This can save seconds, even minutes, that can make a life-and-death difference in fire and EMS response.

"It’s a seamless transition from the call taker to the dispatcher," explains Marty Barry, who has been a dispatcher at the Hackensack Fire Department for more than 22 years. "I think it facilitates a better response because it frees me up to multitask better. Everything is personalized, so you can customize your screen to the way your mind thinks."

The backbone of the ProPhoenix package is the WDA, which allows sharing real-time data across multiple platforms to improve situational awareness. The WDA can be deployed on a Windows Surface, Toughbook, iPad or Android tablet, smartphone or any laptop or notebook computer. With a built-in GPS, configurable unit and call status icons are viewable on the map.

And if the WDA is the backbone, then the Fire Records Management System is the heart. The RMS is a single point of data entry that provides ease of reporting with the integration of inspection information and National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). Intuitive navigation and built-in workflows are enhanced by embedded video help, help text and online training materials.

The inspection management module puts the beat in the RMS. It’s available on the Mobile Inspections™ App, and fire inspectors can use it to conduct mobile applications and enter the data onsite, as well as:

  • Maintain and update complete building registrations with pre-plan documents, photos, HazMat location, PDFs of building floor plans and contacts.
  • Schedule inspections, re-inspections and fire prevention activities.
  • Create customized inspection checklists.
  • Plot hydrant locations on the map and manage hydrant inspections.
  • Track TGPM flow calculations.

With all assigned pending inspections shown on a map, each inspector can quickly and easily configure a daily route that minimizes driving time and maximizes efficiency. Hackensack has found the fire inspection functions to be the blood flow of its deployment and thus assigned Fire Inspector Al Cirelli to join Niland in leading the implementation.

"Our inspectors can enter flags for hazards or chemicals or other aspects of the building structure as a one-stop shop," Cirelli confirms. "It allows us to give firefighters direction right on the line if there are concerns with roof structure, what type of sprinkler system is in the building, where the fire alarms are located or if there is Class 1 or Class 2 standpipe. We’re getting information, and time, that we didn’t have before."

Cirelli adds that Hackensack is learning as it goes along, embracing new functions all the time. The department has not moved to using the apparatus management or other scheduling management, inventory management or even accounting and billing capacity that is part of the RMS, but only to guard against information overload.

Each of its four firehouses, however, has a 40-inch monitor in the bay next to apparatus that all firefighters going out on call can reference for information that will make the response safer and more effective. Clearly, the ProPhoenix system has evolved intuitively to fire department workflow. Additional evidence would be the CSP that provides community members the ability to share personalized information with public safety agencies such as medical and emergency information that can be viewed by department personnel while en route to a call.

"If information is at all useful in other places, we should do our level best to make sure that information is available when needed," Madisen pledges. "Because we can take the unknowns and make them known, decision-makers can then make the best choices."

Good ideas

Reit loves to listen to Madisen on the phone with customers, sharing his 30-plus years of experience in fire records management. And it’s a eureka refrain from Madisen that personifies what keeps the ProPhoenix suite vital and responsive.

"I hear Jim on the phone all the time saying, ‘That’s a damn good idea,’" Reit recalls. Those ideas have translated into new modules or module upgrades. In fact, Madisen submits that nearly 70 percent of the additions to the various products have come from user suggestions. When these are implemented, they are passed on to all customers in good standing for free.

Customer interaction has become so significant that ProPhoenix has taken to sessions like the one in May when users from departments in Wayne and Vineland joined those from Wisconsin and Massachusetts to review the CAD and make suggestions for upgrades. Combining that forward thinking with the protocol that assigns an individual project manager to each department and tech support that responds almost instantaneously, here is another aspect of the ProPhoenix way recognized as a true differentiator.

"I have been told many times from users that you tout your products, but what you really need to tout is your customer support and service," Reit shares.

In his webinars, Madisen usually ends with this refrain to customers: "I’m hoping from your questions to take back things we don’t already do as suggestions to improve our products."

Or as Niland confirms: "They have built some of it around us. As more fire departments come on, it will grow even bigger."

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