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West Columbia Fire Department upgrading technology to help make citizens safer

West Columbia, SC (Paul Kirby) – The West Columbia FD recently has been training with a new technology system that runs on iPads. This system allows them to access their pre-incident fire plans electronically and do other things like map the closest fire hydrant to areas in the city that may be experiencing a fire.

For years, pre-incident fire plans were done on paper by the firefighters. These plans gave important information on commercial buildings like where the entrances and exits were, where the gas and electrical could be shut off, and even estimates on how much water would be required if the building were burning. It was an opportunity for firefighters to go into a business, not for the purpose of inspecting it for violations, rather it was an opportunity to plan in the event that a disaster ever occurred. The problem was that many firefighters just didn’t like having to do them. They were there to put fires out, not draw pictures or do math to figure out needed fire flow. They also would be kept in bulky books whose pages faded, got torn, or simply were in the way. Now, West Columbia is deploying the iPad-based system that should make these more purpose driven, easier to update, keep up with, and access. It could also be more fun with young firefighters who grew up with electronics in their hands and an app for everything.

The ArcGIS system has been available for some time to governments and others as a way to accurately map their areas. Now, their GPS enabled ArcGIS incident preplan and fire hydrant app is just one more tool that takes all those maps and adds another overlay that can greatly benefit firefighters. Each of West Columbia’s pieces of equipment are equipped with iPads and the app.

In the event of a fire, someone other than the driver can access information while enroute that’s important about the fire they’re responding to. They can have the locations of staircases at an apartment, something they’d need to quickly protect if the building were on fire and people were escaping, the position of the fire department connection (FDC) for the sprinkler systems, and where people who can’t help themselves are located. They can even spot the closest fire hydrant if they need to lay a supply line in. Think how helpful something like this would be for a fire like the His House Ministries building. Once the firefighters preplanned the building and had it all loaded in the app, they would not only know about the danger of heavy fire load in the building, they could have at their fingertips information on who might be in the building or in ones that were adjacent.

Currently, firefighters and their supervisors in West Columbia have been training with the system on the iPads. It’s just another innovation that integrates good old fashioned work with technology to make our lives better. These will make things safer for everyone who lives and works in the city in the coming years.

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