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Extinguishing Asset Management Emergencies for Volunteer Firefighters

extinguishing-asset-management-emergencies-0515-banner One of the biggest challenges facing any volunteer organization is recruiting and retaining volunteers. Volunteer fire departments are no exception. 69% of the fire services in the U.S. are made up of volunteer fire departments and for the first time in 28 years, the majority of the firefighters are over 50 years of age.  This dangerous and necessary profession is struggling with hiring the new volunteers they depend on. When you are fighting flames and trying to save a home or rescue a person you can’t be thinking about whether you have all the gear you need. You need to know that it is where it is supposed to be.  Tracking their assets and equipment was the problem facing Lipscomb Fire and Rescue. They were tracking their equipment by hand, the system was time-consuming and it had the potential for human error.  Valuable volunteer time was going up in smoke. firefighter-facts-050515“Tracking by hand was very time consuming,” says Jamie Pugh, liaison officer for Lipscomb Fire and Rescue. “Since we’re 100% volunteer, it is important for us to be efficient. For safety purposes, it’s vital our equipment tracking be very accurate. If our tracking isn't accurate, we aren't able to provide the public safety services we are committed to provide.”

Safety and Organization Challenges from Bad Asset Management System

Tracking equipment and gear by hand was creating dangerous safety and organizational problems for the volunteer fire department.
  1. Time consuming - The Lipscomb Fire and Rescue Department needs to be ready to go at all times. This includes tracking and prepping a large amount of expensive gear and equipment. Each piece of equipment needs to be accounted for. Pugh and his volunteers needed to spend hours keeping up with this important task.
  2.  Prone to human error - Trying to keep track of the equipment by hand was relying on a lot of people to keep track of small details. It also involved a spreadsheet that had to be updated manually, where mistakes are inevitable.
  3.  Volunteer burnout - Too much time spent preparing trucks “per run” was putting a strain on volunteers, hurting attention on the job and volunteer retention.

Lipscomb Fire and Rescue Started Using Asset Management Best Practices to Solve Its Problems

It took the volunteer team about 1 hour to prepare and track equipment per run of a fire truck. In addition, Pugh was regularly spending hours accounting for each piece of equipment by hand and manually entering the data into the computer. He realized he needed to change the way the fire department was tracking their assets in order to save time and ensure the safety of the firefighters and civilians they were assisting. Asset Management Best Practices
  1. Individual barcoded labels for each asset - Individually barcoded labels for each piece of equipment and gear allow them to be easily identified by a unique tag. These can be scanned and the information automatically entered into a centralized database.
  2. Barcode scanning automated data entry - Scanning assets with a barcode scanner reduces the potential for mistakes by volunteers. Also, the information is automatically entered into a centralized database and doesn't need to be entered by hand, where human error is inevitable.
  3. Centralized data accessible to all - Data such as the location of equipment is stored in a centralized database that is accessible to more than one volunteer and members of the fire and rescue team.

Lipscomb Fire and Rescue Used Wasp MobileAsset to Implement Asset Management Best Practices

Asset Tracking with Asset Tags - Fire Station
Pugh began researching asset tracking systems and best practices. He learned that barcode based asset management could solve his organization’s key issues. Based on features and price comparison, Pugh tried Wasp Barcode’s MobileAsset. “There was very little debate. Wasp provided the services we needed on our limited budget. And when I called to get a quote, I received outstanding customer service,” he said. In May of 2011, Lipscomb Fire and Rescue implemented asset tracking software from Wasp Barcode. The amount of time spent tracking and placing the appropriate equipment on the trucks has been reduced from approximately 1 hour per run to less than 20 minutes per run. “Since implementing Wasp MobileAsset, we have become safer, faster and more efficient,” explained Pugh. “And when there is an emergency, the firefighters now know the equipment is there and they know exactly where it is on the truck.”

“Since implementing Wasp MobileAsset, we have become safer, faster and more efficient,” explained Pugh. “And when there is an emergency, the firefighters now know the equipment is there and they know exactly where it is on the truck.”

Tracking the departments equipment has gone from a major chore to a simple solution. Pugh printed barcodes for each piece of equipment. Now, when he is taking inventory of all their equipment, he simply uses the Wasp barcode scanner “We are very pleased with Wasp MobileAsset and the efficiency we have gained,” stated Pugh. “But we are most impressed with the friendly service we have received. Wasp stands behind their product and is always willing to help if we have any questions or need their assistance.” Volunteer firefighters from the Lipscome Fire and Rescue Department can now spend more of their volunteer hours helping the community they serve and less on tracking assets.  When they respond to an emergency, all of their equipment is now accounted for and in its place on the truck. That is piece of mind not only for the firefighters, but also for all of the residents they protect.

Related Article: Asset Management Software Leads to Efficient Government Spending

How would removing human error from the process of tracking equipment make your daily operation safer and more efficient?