Apparatus and equipment continue to get more and more complex. Couple that with the fact that firefighters are being asked to specialize in more areas than ever before, and it’s easy to see why maintenance checks often take a back seat. But incomplete or non-existent maintenance records can – and have – come back to haunt departments across the country.
Just as thieves gravitate toward the most vulnerable targets, so do opportunistic attorneys and reporters looking to dig up some dirt. If your records aren’t complete and current, you might as well paint a target across your chest. Even if you’re not targeted right now, you sure will be once something goes wrong.
You do everything possible to protect the firefighters in your department. You spend thousands of hours training them so that they’re prepared when the alarm sounds. But do you do the same when it comes to their equipment? If your equipment isn’t ready when the alarm sounds, your firefighters – and the community you serve – could be in trouble. When it comes to proving compliance with your maintenance inspections, ask yourself these questions:
Too bad the readiness of excuses doesn’t match up with what should be the readiness and relevance of apparatus and equipment maintenance records.
In our personal lives, most of us have become comfortable using digital solutions for everything from paying bills to buying products. But when it comes to using technology in our departments, that comfort isn’t as strong. While emergency and incident reporting in the fire industry are mostly logged digitally (due in large part to NFIRS regulations), most departments still use paper logs when it comes to their maintenance records.
While there are programs out there that schedule and log maintenance checks, paper logbooks are still the norm in a majority of fire departments. Paper logs are arduous and time-consuming, not to mention bulky and difficult to search through. By contrast, digital recordkeeping systems ensure that everything is being checked and handled in a timely way. Every check is captured in a database, so viewing the maintenance history of a particular vehicle or apparatus can be done quickly and reliably. So if someone comes in asking for proof of a maintenance record, it can be found in a few clicks.
Besides automating the scheduling process, many programs offer the ability to send out alerts when something needs to be fixed. With PSTrax.com, for instance, users have the ability to send alerts directly from their system to officers or maintenance shops if they come across an issue during their checks.
Bullet-proof documentation is the greatest benefit of digital systems, should something go wrong. Instead of fumbling around trying to piece together specifics about what happened, personnel have all the information at their fingertips. While this may not eliminate fallout from a problem, it establishes clear accountability so that it can be corrected going forward, and paints the department as proactive, rather than incompetent or defensive.
Other benefits of digitizing maintenance records include:
In today’s lawsuit-happy world, it’s critical to reduce risks and exposure. Taking your maintenance checks paperless is one key way to protect yourself and your department.
This article was written for & published by Texas Firefighter.