Gravenhurst introduces new program to better prepare firefighters for rural emergencies

Gravenhurst introduces new program to better prepare firefighters for rural emergencies

Gravenhurst firefighters are going digital. On June 20, the department launched Community Connect, an online program designed to provide firefighters with additional information when dealing with emergencies at local locations.

“It’s based on addresses,” says Gravenhurst Fire Chief Jared Cayley. “When we get a call for service from our dispatcher, everything in the system that’s tied to that address goes to the fingertips of the firefighters that are on the scene.”

The information appears on firefighters’ phones or iPads, which they can access on their way to the emergency. The type of information associated with an address can include the number of residents, their ages, medical conditions, the layout of the property, and any pets. However, the program is voluntary, meaning residents must create their own profile and provide information about their property.

“Some people have even gone so far as to put pictures of their pets on it,” Cayley says. “It’s awesome.”

The information provided through the program helps firefighters better strategize when approaching an emergency. For example, in the event of a fire, knowing where a child is in the home or whether there is a suite with elderly residents. It’s the information you’d want to have if you were approaching an unfamiliar situation where you’re trying to help someone, Cayley explains.

All information provided to Community Connect is secured in a cloud-based platform with bank-level encryption. Residents log in to their own profile with a username and password.

Cottagers are also encouraged to register their properties. Community Connect, which is run by First Due, a US company that works primarily with urban fire departments, has adapted its modules for Gravenhurst, modifying the program to allow seasonal residents to enter cottage-specific information, such as whether the property is winterized.

Cayley says he’s also working with First Due to introduce a way for vacation home owners, business owners and permanent residents to book a fire inspection through the site.

The program, which Cayley first started looking into a year and a half ago, is designed to reduce bloat. “We had different pieces of software that were doing different jobs, and they were different ages. Some were no longer supported. Some were running on outdated equipment,” he says. “We started looking at the cost of replacing them and whether it was worth it to buy a brand new all-in-one device.”

A neighboring department pointed Cayley toward First Due. “When they were demoing First Due to us, they asked if you’d be interested in the Community Connect module. And so I said, ‘What’s Community Connect?’ They started explaining it to me and they were probably an eighth of the way through and I said, ‘We’ll take it.’”

Community Connect has already registered 35 Gravenhurst properties and Cayley expects that number to increase. Anyone interested in registering their own property can find out more about the program here.