By Frank R. Myers
Originally Published in MultiBriefs, 08-2016
Sooner or later, your department will face litigation from the private sector when an apparatus accident occurs. It is important that your department's subject material experts, or the person(s) assigned to the training of your drivers, are prepared. Based on personal experience, I recommend that this person have several items in place.
The litigation team representing the plaintiff and your municipality's legal representatives may ask for the training and driving history of the person operating the apparatus at the time of the accident. Among areas covered are any courses and materials that were delivered during their initial probationary period, subsequent training related to driving, and any certificates awarded for course passing and completion.
Most fire districts across the country still log their apparatus and equipment checks on clipboards or paper logsheets. But that’s starting to change, as many departments are beginning to convert from these pen-and-paper systems into digital logbooks. Automating inspections saves departments both time and money since crews can perform their checks with greater efficiency, ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks.
Although the startup costs of implementing such systems are higher than paper-based programs, the savings in the long run are substantial. "A conservative estimate is that a targeted document management effort can return as much as $20 to $40 for every dollar invested," according to a report from totallypaperless.com. These savings are the result of increased productivity; immediate access to decision-critical data; and the ability to keep, organize, and retrieve vast amounts of information like regulatory guidelines, manufacturer specs, and compliance documents.
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.
Golden (CO)-based PSTrax is offering a "tech trauma-free" zone for fire departments that have deployed the service to automate their apparatus and equipment checks. PSTrax replaces labor-intensive paper logbooks with a cloud-based service that is both cost-effective and easy to implement.
"Our philosophy is that firefighters should spend their time fighting fires, not software," says Scott Bergeron, the company's Director of Operations. "That's why we take care of all the hard stuff for them, uploading every one of their maintenance schedule into a customized digital logbook. So all the crew has to do is log in from a smart phone or tablet, see which checks are due, and get to it."