Technology with a Purpose

Archive for January, 2012

First TargetSafety Now TargetSolutions Our Online Training Management System Makes Profound Impact on Fire Service

In the very beginning, the idea of web-based training courses replacing hands-on education was roundly rejected. Some people laughed. Some even scowled. Most just said it would never work because it was impossible to effectively deliver training through the Internet.

“People were skeptical, and understandably so,” said TargetSolutions’ CEO Jon Handy. “We were offering a significant shift in how things had always been done. I think the fact we’ve changed so many minds over the last 12 years really speaks to the quality and usefulness of our platform.”

The company was founded in 1999 as a safety training business under the name TargetSafety. Training courses were originally offered as CD-ROMs before being moved over to HTML when the Internet took ablaze. But many who voiced doubts during the early days are now believers in TargetSolutions, which features the industry’s leading and most powerful online training management system.

“We’ve always been committed to providing the very best online training possible. That’s how we made our mark in this business,” Handy said. “But over time, we’ve continued working hard at creating technology solutions that enable our clients to manage their overall organizational operation. We are focused on building applications that help fire departments do their job quicker, better and with less risk so they can track compliance and improve productivity. We never stop innovating here at TargetSolutions.”

In October of 2011, TargetSafety officially changed its name to TargetSolutions to better depict the company’s full-range of services. The reason is simple the company isn’t just web-based training anymore. As municipalities and public entities have increasingly been forced to do more with less, TargetSolutions has worked to find answers that help clients reduce costs, streamline operations and improve productivity. The name change more clearly articulates that message and resonates better with clients, according to the company’s Chief of Operations Thom Woodward.

“The name TargetSolutions reflects who we are and what we do more effectively,” Woodward said. “Our technology platform is very flexible and solves problems beyond safety training. We’re dedicated to serving our clients and helping them save time and money.”

One way TargetSolutions is revolutionizing the way fire departments complete mandated training is with unrivaled career-development applications. Whether it’s ISO training hours, EMT certifications, driver’s licenses, or departmental SOPs; they all need to be managed. With TargetSolutions, departments are experiencing an easier process tracking that information than ever before.

“Before TargetSolutions, training and recordkeeping was very cumbersome,” said Stuart Sprung, who is a fire training specialist responsible for managing Oceanside Fire Departments training program. “We knew that for the guys to use TargetSolutions, it had to be easy or they wouldn’t use it. With TargetSolutions, guys can now enter a full day’s worth of training reports in less than five minutes and that data is captured. Our guys have logged thousands more training hours than ever before since we’ve implemented TargetSolutions.”

In 2008, the company released Custom Activities, which is at the center of the powerful data-tracking tools enabling clients to log information on activities. In 2009, the company released Credentials Manager, which enhanced the platforms capabilities in collecting licenses, qualifications, certifications and more. Then, in late 2011, TargetSolutions’ team of talented developers completed a major overhaul of the platforms interface.

Fueled by the feedback from clients, the redesign was focused on creating a more engaging and intuitive product. During the process, the company sought advice from numerous fire departments utilizing the platform on a daily basis. It was Sarasota County Fire Departments Ken Treffinger who summed up the changes with one word: Wow!

“After seeing the new (TargetSolutions) platform, I was immediately impressed by the layout and look that it presented,” Treffinger said.” Actually, I believe my first word after seeing it was wow! The new platform offered by (TargetSolutions) is sleek, professional, and appears very user friendly. I feel the new platform will make my job easier with its convenient layout and ease of navigation it offers.”

“No matter how much easier the platform is to navigate, it still needs to provide robust applications that deliver increased operational efficiency and save organizations time and money. The company continues to deliver on that promise, according to Mark Fleming of the City of Lawrence Fire Department in Indiana.”

“We’ve saved the city a ton of money using TargetSolutions,” Fleming said. “TargetSolutions is the best decision I’ve ever made. They’ve gone a long way to assist the department and to assist me with my job. Overall, I’m totally satisfied with TargetSolutions.”

About TargetSolutions
TargetSolutions is the leading provider of web-based technology solutions for fire and EMS departments. These solutions enable departments to maintain compliance, reduce losses, deliver curriculum, and track all station-level tasks, certifications and training activities.

Clients Excited About Upgrades to TargetSolutions’ Online Training and Records Management System

In late 2011, TargetSolutions’ online training and records management system underwent a comprehensive overhaul by the company’s team of engineers. The early feedback has been extremely positive as more than 100 fire departments have moved onto the new platform over the last few months.

“The reaction has been tremendous,” said Jenny Cady Fergason, who serves as TargetSolutions’ Director of Client Services. “The clients are finding it to be more intuitive and easier to navigate. Our tech team really did a great job enhancing the platform.”

According to Fergason, clients have praised the new systems look and functionality. Administrators are benefiting from upgrades to the File Center and the new Shift Calendar, while users are finding the Notification System incredibly efficient.

“The ability to pin credentials to the top of the schedule on the home page is really simplifying the process for users,” Fergason said. “Now, when they login to the website, they immediately know where to go and what they have to do. It’s just more engaging and effective.”

Administrators are taking advantage of the ability to maneuver files inside folders in the File Center, manage their work schedule with the Shift Calendar and update their own custom logo. The upgraded platform includes the following enhancements:

Shift Calendar: Clients asked TargetSolutions for a shift calendar and we delivered. Administrators can now coordinate and display their staff’s work schedule, as well as assignments, with the new Shift Calendar application.

Notification System: Users now have a prominently displayed and eye-catching Notification System that alerts them when an assignment has become urgent and needs immediate attention.

Dashboard: Statistical data pertinent to each organization is available in the attractive new Dashboard. Administrators can easily consume and analyze their organizations progress on certain activities and assignments with this application.

Password Recovery: Statistics show that one-third of users will forget their password at some point. TargetSolutions has taken action to upgrade its password recovery process. Users are being asked to verify they have a valid e-mail address associated with their account, creating the ability to receive e-mails with password reset capability.

“We were focused on providing our clients with an upgraded, more visually attractive home page,” said TargetSolutions Director of Information Technology Alex Day. “The platform has a new look and feel. The feedback we’ve received so far has been really positive. This was one of our company’s most significant releases and we’re really proud of it. We’re also excited about continuing to build on the platform. We’re always looking ahead at ways to improve our technology and we have some big things planned in the coming months.”

The new platform also features vastly superior help documentation system. If you’re a client still operating the old system and you would like more information about switching to the upgraded platform, please contact your client services account manager at (800) 840-8048.

What Our Clients are Saying:
Ken Treffinger of Sarasota County Fire Department: After seeing the new (TargetSolutions) platform, I was immediately impressed by the layout and the look that it presented. Actually, I believe my first word after seeing it was wow! The new platform offered by (TargetSolutions) is sleek, professional, and appears very user-friendly. I feel the new platform will make my job easier with its convenient layout and the ease of navigation it offers.

Jackie Hulsey, database coordinator for Seminole County Fire/EMS Training Center: I really like the new platform! The entire look and feel of the site is clean and organized. On the home page, listing everything that’s coming due, including credentials, right up front is very helpful. I believe it has assisted lapsed memories of certain individuals on several occasions. Also, although the new notifications box is unobtrusive, the fact that its more visible when highlighted and includes notifications for several additional items makes it an added benefit to our users.

Kathy Edwards, training section lieutenant with Lake County Fire Rescue: I was thrilled to start the new application when we did. It has been an upgrade in some areas. The largest area benefiting was the File Center. The ability to move my own files within the File Center has allowed for a cleaner, more organized site.As administrator to Target Solutions, I have been able to rid our site of unnecessary items, delete unwanted items and/or non-training related items and organize our site to be more user-friendly. The new site makes it easier for users to see what is required of them, locate classes, and track their credentials.

Stuart Sprung, training specialist for Oceanside Fire Department: When TargetSolutions first came out and we started using it, it didn’t have the ability to do everything it does now. It was probably at 25 percent of how it’s functioning now. It was really kind of a CE provider. The management aspect of it was in its infancy. But over time, it has become something we use extensively. Before TargetSolutions, training and recordkeeping was very cumbersome. We knew that for the firefighters to use TargetSolutions, it had to be easy or they wouldn’t use it. With TargetSolutions guys can now enter a full day’s worth of training reports in less than five minutes and that data is captured. Our guys have logged thousands more training hours than ever before ever since we implemented TargetSolutions.

About TargetSolutions
TargetSolutions is the leading provider of web-based technology solutions for fire and EMS departments. These solutions enable departments to maintain compliance, reduce losses, deliver curriculum, and track all station-level tasks, certifications and training activities.

The Paradoxical Commandments of Fire Service Leadership

Blog by Doug Cline
International Society of Fire Service Instructors, Vice President

It’s always good to remember what we were taught by our mentors. Listed below are The Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership, which I was raised on during my early years in the fire service. These commandments of fire leadership are right on, not only for those of us in the fire service, but every profession and in all areas of life.

Here are The Paradoxical Commandments of Fire Leadership:

1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway!

2. If you do well, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do well anyway!

3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway!

4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do it anyway!

5. Honesty and frankness makes you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway!

6. The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyway!

7. People favor underdogs, but follow top dogs. Fight for the underdogs anyway!

8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway!

9. People really need help, but may attack you if you help them. Help people anyway!

10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give your best anyway!

Ironically, I was searching for something else in the office when I ran across an old text book that I utilized while going through the International Society of Fire Service Instructors Company of Development Series many years ago. One of the authors of the book, Fire Chief Dan Jones, wound up being my mentor. The book Managing People happened to fall to the floor during my search and randomly opened up to page 32 where these commandments were listed.

This just happened to be at an opportune time in my life when I was looking to clarify focus, create drive and provide sound direction for my future. These commandments were like a sign from above.

Over the past year, I’ve had many discussions with colleagues across the country about the issues and frustrations we encounter on a daily basis in the fire service. It can be depressing. And I’m sure it’s not just the fire service. The future holds so many uncertainties. I’ve watched friends with more than 25 years be laid off. We see fire stations closing, training centers shut down and good leaders cut at the knees by ram-rod political events.

I believe the book falling open to the exact page of The Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership is one of those events the kind that make you say, OK, I get it!

My frustration with the fire service is like riding a roller coaster. Many issues influence my feelings. I often find myself disheartened with current events that happen routinely in our business. Thankfully, The Paradoxical Commandments, which were written in 1968 by a 19-year-old Harvard student named Kent Keith, have given me, and will continue to give me guidance.

Keith’s commandments were part of The Silent Revolution: Dynamic Leadership in the Student Council, his first book for high school student leaders, which can be carried over to everyone in every profession.

I laid down the Paradoxical Commandments as a challenge, Keith is quoted saying. The challenge is to always do what is right and good and true, even if others don’t appreciate it. You have to keep striving, no matter what, because if you don’t, many of the things that need to be done in our world will never get done.

Thank you, Mr. Keith, for your wisdom. It’s as true today as it ever was.

About the Author
Douglas Cline is a student of the fire service serving as training commander with the City of High Point (N.C.) Fire Department and assistant chief of administration with the Ruffin Volunteer Fire Department. Cline is a North Carolina Level II Fire Instructor, National Fire Academy Instructor and an EMT-Paramedic instructor/coordinator for the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services. Cline is a member of the North Carolina Society of Fire Service Instructors and the International Society of Fire Service Instructors where he serves on the Board of Directors as The First Vice President.

CDC Makes It Clear Vaccination Records are Your Responsibility

Blog by Katherine West
Author and consultant on infection control

In December of 2011, the Center for Disease Control published updated guidelines and recommendations regarding vaccine records. The document clearly stated that EMS personnel are indeed covered under these guidelines, stating Health-Care Personnel (HCP) might include (but not limited to) physicians, nurses, nursing assistants, therapists, technicians, emergency medical personnel, dental personnel, pharmacists, laboratory personnel, autopsy personnel, students, trainees, contractual staff not employed by the healthcare facility.

It is very clear EMS is covered. It should also be noted that National Fire Protection Standard 1581 makes the very same statement and recommends following the CDCs recommendations.

Due to the outbreaks across the country for measles and Pertussis, it is essential that vaccination/immunization records be available to assist with prompt exposure follow up. Here are the CDCs statements:

– HICPAC and CDC have recommended that secure, preferably computerized, systems should be used to manage vaccination records for HCP so records can be retrieved easily as needed

– Each record should reflect immunity status for indicated vaccine-preventable diseases, as well as vaccinations administered during employment

Medical records belong to the individual, so it is your responsibility to request the information be sent to your department. A declination form should be signed if an individual fails to request records.

Every health-care worker should be aware of their immunity status and possible need for a preventive vaccine. Vaccination is critical to risk reduction and concern in an exposure situation.

For more information, please check online at www.ic-ec.com.

About the Author
Katherine West is an expert in the field of infection control. She’s worked in the industry since 1975 and has served as a consultant to the Center for Disease Control and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. She authored Infectious Disease Handbook for Emergency Care Personnel and is a well-traveled lecturer and author.

With TargetSolutions Life is ‘Easier’ for Oceanside Fire Department

Stuart Sprung thought he would be a firefighter forever. After working as a firefighter for 17 years for the San Francisco Fire Department, his career came to a sudden conclusion when he suffered a spinal cord injury in a work-related accident.

Because of his injuries, Sprung is no longer able to perform his old duties. But he’s still able to help other firefighters. Since 2006 he has served as the fire training specialist for the Oceanside Fire Department.

“I’m here for the guys,” said Sprung, who recently conducted a Q&A with TargetSolutions’ marketing department. “I’m here to make sure they get the training they need.”

Oceanside looks to TargetSolutions for answers to its training needs. Sprung has seen the company’s platform come a long way since signing up in 2008. He continues to be a huge proponent of the technology, but not because it’s shiny or cool, but because it’s effective and helps his firefighters complete their mission.

“The whole reason we are here is so guys can get training in the most efficient way possible,” Sprung said. “The guys are out running calls, so we have to try and make their lives easier. TargetSolutions makes everyone in our department’s life easier.”

Here is a transcript of the complete conversation on how Oceanside is benefiting from TargetSolutions online training and records management system:

Question: Please talk a little bit about how TargetSolutions helps your department?

Sprung: We have to get training out. We have to make sure it’s complied with, we have to have a way to make sure it’s getting done, and we have to keep records for it. If people miss training, how do we get that fixed? We lost people in this office, and we had to find a tool to still do what we are required by law to do. Just because were short on staff doesn’t lessen our legal obligation to fulfill our training requirements. If our doors are open for business, we have to provide the training; we have to figure out a way to get it done with what we have. TargetSolutions is key for us accomplishing that. It gave us the ability to be able to do all the things we are required to do. TargetSolutions has become an invaluable tool for us.

Question: How has the platform progressed since you started?

Sprung: When TargetSolutions first came out, and we started using it, it didn’t have the ability do everything it does now. It was probably at 25 percent of how it’s functioning now. It was really kind of a CE provider. The management aspect of it was in its infancy. But over time, it has become something we use extensively. Before TargetSolutions, training and recordkeeping was very cumbersome. We knew that for the firefighters to use TargetSolutions, it had to be easy or they wouldn’t use it. With TargetSolutions guys can now enter a full day’s worth of training reports in less than five minutes and that data is captured. Our guys have logged thousands more training hours than ever before ever since we implemented TargetSolutions.

Question: You guys experienced budget cuts. Can you talk about how TargetSolutions helped your department make it through that?

Sprung: Over the last five years, we’ve seen our training staff cut in half. TargetSolutions has not only picked up the slack, but improved our recordkeeping from our inception all the way to now. There has never been recordkeeping as thorough and accurate as we have right now with TargetSolutions. All of our training is tracked on TargetSolutions. When those guys do hose evolutions this month on their own, it’s on them to enter training after completing the drill. It’s all tracked on TargetSolutions.

Question: What applications have helped your department the most?

Sprung: The first is Custom Activities, which we have built to allow companies to log training very simply it takes them seconds to do it with TargetSolutions. The second is the Credentials tracker. We have the unfortunate role of being the certification police for all things that are required. We learned the hard way that is something we have to take seriously. We can’t have any flexibility on that. People cannot work with an expired paramedic license or expired driver’s license. We have to have eyes on the certificates of 100 people, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. TargetSolutions has really helped with that.

Question: Have you ever done a cost-benefit analysis to see just how much money you are saving with TargetSolutions?

Sprung: We’ve never done a cost-benefit analysis. … But it is worth every penny. The best way I can put it, is that it’s the best money a department can spend per training hour logged.

About TargetSolutions
TargetSolutions is the leading provider of web-based technology solutions for fire and EMS departments. These solutions enable departments to maintain compliance, reduce losses, deliver curriculum, and track all station-level tasks, certifications and training activities.

A Case for Company Performance Standards

Blog by Bill Sturgeon
Retired Division Chief of Training for Orange County Fire Rescue Department in Florida

During the 1970s, the fire service became involved in Emergency Medical Services. Then, during the 80s, it was Hazmat. And in the 90s, it was technical rescue. After 9/11, Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) became the new service everyone wanted to provide.

We trained hard and became proficient at delivering these new services. But there may have been some unintended consequences.

I recently retired as the chief of training for a large metropolitan department in Florida. The department has its fair share of fires and I noticed numerous times that critical errors related to fundamental firefighting techniques were being made.

Pulling the wrong line (too short, too long), hooking up to an intake instead of a discharge, not properly using forcible entry tools, poor ground-ladder deployment. The list goes on and on.

If this sounds familiar, read on! This is how your department can develop a low-cost training program, set performance standards, improve basic skills and have some fun in the process.

To begin with, fire chiefs must use company performance standards to measure progress. These can be internally developed standards or you can refer to NFPA 1410 (Standard on Training for Initial Emergency Scene Operations, 2010 Edition) and use it as the standard.

The bottom line is that this training must be supported from the top. All officers must get up, get out, and participate with crews.

Find out who are your strongest players. Find out who are your weakest links. And determine who your top company is so they can mentor and teach others.

Company officers must train and challenge their crews to meet or exceed standards (measured in time and accuracy). Drivers can review basic hydraulic skills, or you can develop a scenario to solve that includes a basic pumping problem.

Finally, firefighters should strive to master each task. Why? Because it is their job. Because they are the future leaders of the fire service (drivers, officers, and instructors) and they need to be capable of passing down knowledge to the newest members.

It’s better to learn these skills in the beginning of your career. They will serve you well.

Developing the plan:
1. Identify special requirements for your jurisdiction. Are there special circumstances you must consider when developing your training outlines?

2. Determine what standard you are going to follow. Is it going to be the NFPA 1410, your own, or a combination of both?

3. Develop necessary drills and use your reference materials.

4. Break down each task into a separate drill. No more than one sheet.

5. Set a time limit to complete the task or refer to NFPA 1410. This will be your performance standard for initial training.

6. Enlist some of your senior people to test the drills out (chiefs, captains, and commanding officers). This is the alpha test. Get some photographs of them in action and post them prior to having the company perform the drills. This creates buy-in. Obtain their feedback on how the drills can be improved.

7. Identify facilitators (instructors and/or mentors) and have them master the drills while troubleshooting any problems. This is the beta test. Now they are ready to begin teaching!

8. Start the drills.

9. All drills should be performed in the appropriate PPE. You are trying to get crews comfortable in their gear when operating at the scene of an emergency. It also will assist in acclimatizing personnel for inclement weather. Do not forget rehab!

10. Have each company pair up with another company in an adjoining district to practice and master the drills. Your facilitator, company officer, or chief should set up these training sessions. If meeting on the line between districts, keep one unit in service for response or use a reserve apparatus.

11. Have your mentors and/or instructors meet during regular intervals to review the training and teaching points. This is continuous quality improvement.

12. Publish each company’s drill times in a public area (the TargetSolutions platform is a great tool for this). This builds pride and competitiveness.

13. Document and share lessons learned. Explore new ideas and techniques.

14. Once all of the training is completed, develop the department performance standard and demand each company meet it. Require monthly training on the standards then supervisors should quarterly spot-check and regulate annual performance standard testing.

You will see dramatic improvement in basic skills if you use this approach. I sure did!

About the Author
Bill Sturgeon is a retired division chief of training for the Orange County Fire Rescue Department in Florida. Sturgeon was a 30-year veteran of the United States Fire Service. During his career, he served as a volunteer, military, municipal, and county firefighter and held many positions, including paramedic, EMS supervisor, company officer (special operations), safety officer, battalion chief, assistant chief and division chief. He is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy.