MINTO – Town council has authorized the local fire service management team to use municipal modernization funds supplied by the province to implement recommendations in a Fire Service Modernization report.
The report, presented to council by deputy fire chief Callise Loos during the June 1 council meeting, contains three recommendations.
“The proposed applications in the report, I think will help us to do our jobs more effectively,” said Loos.
The recommendations include a synergy units 911 response application.
“It’s an application that would be on a tablet in our trucks and it would allow our responders to access all of the information that they need on the face of a tablet and be able to utilize the interface of the tablet to correspond back and forth with Guelph dispatch,” Loos explained.
“This will make our lives a little bit easier because if we have things like burn permits or pre-planned data or hazards that are identified already on the property, Guelph dispatch and the responders will have that at the ready,” she added.
“Right now that information is stored in binders or it could be in a radio room, or it might not even be collected as of yet because there’s nowhere to put it,” said Loos.
An application called “Check It Mobile” is also part of the modernization package.
“It’s an application that will automate our truck checks,” which will help with preparation of maintenance records needed for internal files and inspection purposes, she said.
She added it will also allow the service to eliminate paper records for maintenance purposes as the information will all be accessible digitally. A learning management system is the third element of the modernization plan, said Loos.
“As you all know the (Ontario Fire College) is closed down. So we’re no longer sending people out for training.”
She added the system will allow people to train in-house at their convenience.
“Which is something that we rely on for retaining our firefighters … making sure that they’re able to train at their earliest or most convenient times. Because, as you know, everyone’s busy and we don’t want the volunteer fire service to … be a drain on people. So this system will allow flexibility in training and also has the required courses that people would need,” Loos explained.
“We’re just bringing it all in house and giving it to them simply, at their fingertips, to be able to train when they want, where they want,” she added.
The report indicates the total cost of tablets, truck mounts, apps and related equipment and software will be just over $33,000 in the first year, with year two and ongoing costs pegged at around $17,000.
Councillor Judy Dirksen asked if Wellington North, which shares a fire services management team with Minto, would be implementing the same modernization measures.
“Their report goes next week to council, so if both reports are passed and we implement at the same time then a lot of the implementation fees associated with will be cut in half … Having both departments go in the same direction at the same time is going to save us some money for sure,” said Loos.
Fire Chief Chris Harrow told council other Wellington County municipalities are at varying points in implementation of similar modernization measures.
“I think we will be close to one of the first to take all three and put them in at the same time,” said Harrow.
“Now that we’re all with Guelph dispatch, our systems will talk with their systems. It’s a huge advantage because we can exchange information back and forth, which is the way a dispatch center and fire department should work.”
Councillor Jean Anderson said, “I think this is a marvelous thing for us to do and the partnership (with Wellington North) certainly will aid in the costs and being able to offer it and making the burden a little easier on our volunteers. After all, they are volunteers and much appreciated.”
She added, “When somebody has to report now you can just print it off with the software and you’ve got it there, as long as the computer’s working and the internet’s up.”