First Responders Need a Common Operating Picture

Better_Emergency_Response-2By Scott Doan.

When First Responders are dispatched to an emergency, every second counts. While the men and women on these crews are trained to handle any situation, access to data such as building schematics, fire hydrant locations, and gas and water shutoffs can make the difference in those crucial seconds.


In many departments, fire engines carry hard copy binders.

Unfortunately, the way first responders access this information is seriously outdated. In many departments, fire engines carry hard copy binders with pre-fire drawings of buildings in their district. Any further information is given from their home PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) or Communication Center through verbal radio communications.

But when crews from multiple districts are dispatched to the same incident, they rarely have access to the site data. In these cases, when the clock is ticking and teamwork is essential to a coordinated firefighting effort, crews must take time calling other Communication Centers and passing information along. In the worst-case scenario, this crucial information degrades as it is verbally communicated from person to person, like a high-stakes game of telephone.

Some agencies already link the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems of all their First Responder agencies, but integrating multiple agencies is complicated, especially with the variety of CAD vendors and software across the industry.

Cloud_Based-2SitStat is a cloud-based alternative, providing situational awareness to all First Responders. Site plans are digitized and accessible to any authorized agency, instead of stored in binders. Valuable GIS (Geographic Information System) layers can be accessed — highlighting water, gas, and power lines — as well as fire hydrant locations and other important data.

All of this information can be viewed by anyone with the SitStat application, from a tablet, phone or desktop. SitStat can dialogue with any CAD system at any agency.

With SitStat, all First Responders can arrive at a site with a common operating picture, without having to dig through binders or play telephone with a series of dispatchers, increasing both their response time and decision-making power in those crucial first moments of an emergency.

About the Author

Scott Doan is former division chief of the Alameda County Fire Department and is now a Public Safety Specialist at Psomas.