There is a fire at an industrial facility. While onsite personnel muster and make their way to safety, nearby communities must be swiftly evacuated. The fire department, meanwhile, must mobilize its volunteers immediately, providing them with minute-by-minute updates of the situation as they respond.
Thousands of volunteers. Multiple community groups. Industrial facilities and power plants. Countless public venues.
A typical fire department must efficiently coordinate with an incredibly complex web of personnel and stakeholders, both internal and external. This arguably represents one of the oldest, most enduring challenges facing fire & rescue. And it’s one that departments have until recently been ill-equipped to manage for a multitude of reasons.
Connecting With External Groups
The groups a fire department works with tend to fall into one of two categories. On the one hand, you have organizations with their own communication platform, processes, and policies. On the other, you have groups without any sort of established infrastructure.
For the former, you’re likely looking at integrating multiple communication tools, one for each external stakeholder. Issues of onboarding aside, this has the potential to introduce even further complexity to an already cumbersome and burdensome system. For the latter, you’re stuck either relying on inefficient phone trees or pulling the groups onto an insecure third-party platform like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
An estimated 68% of firefighters are volunteers. The length of time each of these volunteers works with their department varies, ranging from several months to several years. The capacity to effectively communicate with and mobilize these volunteers is critical.
Unfortunately, legacy communication tools once again fall short in this regard. Fire departments end up having to maintain databases of names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers. In the event of an emergency, departments must generally reach out to each of these volunteers individually over the phone.
SMS messaging is hardly an alternative, either. In addition to being highly insecure, it’s also unreliable, even with recent technological advancements. Group SMS, meanwhile, falls prey to many of the same inefficiencies as email from a backend perspective, requiring management of numbers, contacts, and SMS threads.
Culture and Collaboration
Mobilization is far from the only communication challenge facing fire departments where volunteers are concerned. Departments must also keep them connected from a cultural perspective. In that regard, volunteer firefighters are not unlike other temporary staff.
Fire departments cannot afford to treat volunteers differently. Each one must be privy to the exact same information as career firefighters. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Daily briefings.
- The ability to connect and communicate with leadership.
- Operational updates.
- Training materials.
Bring Everyone Together With Unio
Your department needs to coordinate with both other organizations and community groups. You need to keep dispatchers, first responders, and leadership all on the same page. And you need to ensure that everyone has access to the most accurate, up-to-date information, whether they’re off-duty, at the station, responding to a call, or debriefing.
And that’s precisely where Unio comes in. Inspired by the unique needs of emergency response agencies, Unio is designed to address the myriad communication challenges facing these organizations. It makes large-scale collaboration easier in multiple ways.
- Easy onboarding. Whether a volunteer firefighter or a representative for an external stakeholder, bringing new people onto the platform is as simple as sending them an invite link. More importantly, Unio is designed to be as intuitive as possible. You don’t need to dedicate any time to training — people can start using the app with ease as soon as they’re online.
- Groups and channels. Unio’s group functionality makes it easy to not only identify leadership but also to determine at a glance whether someone is a dispatcher, a firefighter, a community representative, or part of a partnered organization.
- Full-featured communication. From group chat to voice, video, and file sharing, Unio enables seamless collaboration, both within the department and without.
An industrial facility is ablaze. Through Unio, a facility representative immediately reaches out to a nearby fire department and coordinates an emergency response. As firefighters arrive onsite, nearby communities are swiftly evacuated.
Before long, the fire is dealt with and the facility is secured. That’s the impact of more effective collaboration. That’s how community outreach and connectivity can empower fire departments, leadership, and entire communities to help keep everyone safe.