Fire apparatus and equipment have come a long way during the past 100 years. Yet a majority of maintenance inspections are done the same way today as they were at the turn of the past century: on pen-and-paper log sheets.
With so much equipment to look after, logging everything by hand can be time- and labor-intensive and prone to mistakes. There's a lot to keep track of: daily and weekly preshift truck checks, inventory checks, personal protective gear and self-contained breathing apparatus bottles, hose and pump schedules, preventive maintenance and annual tests, advanced life support and basic life support equipment, drug checks, station supplies, and more. Combine that with all the other responsibilities departments have-running calls, training, maintaining certifications, and so on-and it's easy to see why streamlining and automating inspections just never seem to be top priorities.
Although missing a check every now and then may not be the end of the world, major issues can arise if they go unchecked for too long. Every year, people and property are needlessly put in harm's way when crucial inspections get missed. "In the case of the firefighter, proper maintenance can be the difference between life and death," says Bob Norton, of the Haddam Volunteer Fire Company, Higganum, Connecticut. "Maintenance is the most lackluster part of the fire service. But outside of training, it may be the most important. Tools are only good if they perform when you need them to. That goes for everything from the gas in a generator to the brakes on a truck."
Such was the case with the Boston (MA) Fire Department tragedy. In 2009, Lieutenant Kevin Kelley was killed when the fire truck he was riding in crashed into an apartment building. Investigators determined the cause of the accident to be a faulty brake system, which raised serious questions about the adequacy of fire truck maintenance.
Preventing tragedies like the one that occurred in Boston is the reason PSTrax was built. It is designed to make maintenance checks more efficient to combat the hundreds of accidents (or near accidents) that occur each year resulting from poor maintenance inspections.
PSTrax automates a fire department's inspections into a cloud-based digital logbook that can be accessed from any computer, tablet, or smartphone. So, all crews have to do is log in, see which checks are due, and get to work-without having to search for the right log sheet or checklist. It's built to each department's specs-its crew, equipment, and maintenance schedules. Each station-specific task, whether it's a truck check that needs to be done at the beginning of each shift or an aerial load test due every five years, is scheduled, tracked, and documented automatically.
Other features of PSTrax include:
Fire departments have embraced sophisticated technology for incident reporting and fire prevention inspections. Now they can for their apparatus and equipment checks as well. Better inspections mean safer equipment and safer crews.
This article was written for & published by FireApparatusMagazine.com.