Losing the Clipboard: Truck Checks in the 21st Century

 

Most fire districts across the country still log their apparatus and equipment checks on clipboards or paper log sheets.

 

David Cain   David Cain

But, that’s starting to change as many departments are beginning to convert from these pen-and-paper systems to digital logbooks. Automating inspections saves departments both time and money because 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.

But, the highest return on investment for departments that have taken their checks paperless comes from identifying and repairing apparatus issues early on, before the repairs become more costly and dangerous. According to Daniel Cimini, chief for the Surfside Beach (SC) Fire Department and former member of the NFPA 1901, Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, Technical Committee, “There are several things that firefighters can do on a regular basis to head off issues early on and that will help prevent the need for costly repairs. When everyone knows what needs to be done and what has already been done, the fire department saves time and money. Problems get caught up front, and major breakdowns are reduced drastically or eliminated altogether.”

Computerized records have drastically increased efficiency by centralizing information, improving accessibility, and cutting down on redundancies
1 Computerized records have drastically increased efficiency by centralizing information, improving accessibility, and cutting down on redundancies. Digital logbooks aim to do the same thing for apparatus and equipment checks. (Photo courtesy of PSTrax.com.)

Although fire agencies do not necessarily need a software program to help them catch issues early on-Cimini has been repairing apparatus for longer than digital systems have been available-the demand is increasing as departments are asked to do more with less. Firefighters are trained in more areas today, and departments have much more specialized equipment to track, maintain, and document. Digital logbooks help departments organize and manage this multitude of information more efficiently than paper check sheets.

With the improved efficiency and transparency that comes with digital logbooks, it is only a matter of time before they take the place of paper checks. Consider what has happened with incident reporting. Before the National Fire Incident Reporting System, all incident logs were done on paper. But the move to computerized records has drastically increased efficiency by centralizing information, improving accessibility, and cutting down on redundancies. Digital logbooks aim to do the same thing for apparatus and equipment checks.

DAVID CAIN is a retired deputy chief with the Boulder (CO) Fire Department, where he served for 34 years. He works as a consultant for PSTrax.com.

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