Technology with a Purpose

Archive for December, 2012

Manage Credentials’ Start and Expiration Dates Easily with TargetSolutions

The Manage Credentials application inside the TargetSolutions platform is an exceptional way for departments to maintain standards and track training. Without question, it is a powerful, user-friendly tool built to make your life easier, and less complicated.

To that end, TargetSolutions has made mass modifying start dates and expiration dates as simple and easy-to-use as possible. Once you have selected your credential of choice, click on the gear wheel in the Users box. Then select Modify Users.

From that point, select all visible users and hit Continue. You are now at the point where you can put in a new start date and a new expiration date. Once that data is populated, simply click on the Finish button and you will be brought back to the Edit Users page.

TargetSolutions is focused on making the credentials application as easy to use as possible.

After Overhauling Training System in ’11, TargetSolutions Produces More Innovative Development in ’12

Another year is nearly in the books and TargetSolutions couldn’t be more pleased with the platforms’ advancements in 2012 – as well as what’s to come in 2013. After redesigning the training and records management system last year, the company spent this year enhancing numerous features and has even more innovative development planned for the coming year.

“We’ve always been committed to creating the very best training management applications possible, but I think we made a lot of significant upgrades to our system in 2012 that clients are really going to benefit from for a long time,” said Product Manager Misty Pratt.

“That being said, I’m really excited about what’s to come. We’re going to continue looking for ways to create better, more robust tools that help our clients streamline training activities. Our goal is to never stop innovating.”

Here is a look at a few of the upgrades clients saw in 2012:

Reporting Capabilities: TargetSolutions’ team of engineers have made several interface upgrades that have made the reporting engine more intuitive. The team also enables administrators and supervisors to run reports on individual users, search more thoroughly with additional filters and utilize components more effectively. In addition, the team developed an automatic reporting mechanism that makes retrieving valuable employee training records quicker than ever before.

We listened to feedback from some of our clients for improving the usability of our reporting capabilities, said Pratt. With components now working the way they do, its easier than ever for departments to pull the exact type of completion data they need.

File Center: The File Center serves organizations as an online location for storing all types of electronic files, word documents, videos, etc. In 2012, TargetSolutions created a tool that allows multiple files to be uploaded at once – and then managed and updated directly from the upload page. The way files are viewed during processing has also changed. It is now easier to tell when files have been successfully uploaded.

File size restrictions have been removed, as has the session-timer limit on the upload page, said Pratt. That means that you can upload a large file and there is no risk of being logged out due to inactivity.

SCORM: Pulling reports from customized content, such as SCORM gives clients the ability to upload their own courses and deliver them through our platform, said Borghi. This helps clients pull more data than if they were delivering content with a custom activity. We’ve got a number of clients who are benefitting from this powerful tool.

“We wanted to make the new feature as easy to use as possible and I think we’ve done that,” said TargetSolutions’ VP of Operations Alex Day. “We find that our users log in to the platform at different rates, but most people check their e-mail regularly. Having these alerts go directly to e-mail made sense for clients. Now they will be able to know right away when they have new training that needs to be done and it will help improve compliance.”

With those highlighted accomplishments now completed, TargetSolutions is turning its attention to 2013. As far as what’s to come next – you can be confident TargetSolutions will continue to innovate and find answers to our clients training challenges. The best enhancements, however, are a direct result of recommendations from clients. TargetSolutions welcomes and encourages clients to provide feedback so it can continue to deliver the best, most powerful and productive tools for managing training.

“Our platform wouldn’t be what it is today if not for the feedback from clients,” said Day. “We have always listened to their ideas and worked to make our platform more functional for the people using it. We truly value the insight our clients have provided over the years because that is what has helped us create tools that help fire departments increase operational efficiencies and reduce costs.”

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.

Mutual Aid for Commanders: Yes, Even Command Can Use a Helpful Hand From Time to Time

Blog by Dr. Richard B. Gasaway, PhD, EFO, CFO
Retired Fire Chief and Web Master for Situational Awareness Matters

Firefighters know the job is physically demanding. Pulling hose, setting ladders and searching for victims all require the physical capacity of more than one person. Firefighters work in teams of two, three or four so the heavy lifting can be shared among many. Firefighters also work in hazardous environments in teams. Just in case something goes wrong, there are other team members ready to help out.

Unfortunately, in many fire departments the concept of teamwork and sharing the heavy lifting hasn’t transcended to the command role, which is unfortunate. Because commanders are hands-off (hopefully), it is assumed their jobs are much easier and less demanding. This is a whopping fallacy. Commanders are doing just as much heavy lifting as any fire company in turnout gear. But commanders do their heavy lifting with their brains, not their brawn.

And just like firefighters who get overwhelmed with the physical demands of their tasks, commanders can also get overwhelmed with the mental demands of their tasks. In both cases, the solution is getting the overwhelmed person some help. For firefighters this means working in teams, deploying additional companies and calling mutual aid. The same concepts should be applied for command.

When the task is mentally challenging, the commander should assemble a command team. As the complexity of the incident increases, the commander should have additional personnel, perhaps companies of personnel, assigned to support command and help with the heavy mental lifting. For really complex incidents, the commander should be able to call mutual aid for command support.

Mutual aid for command? Fire departments in many regions are familiar with mutual aid for front-line operational personnel. The same concept can be applied for command. Mutual aid agreements and automatic aid agreements should be in place so commanders can call for assistance.

In many instances it is unrealistic for front-line operational personnel to be assigned to command support roles. There are two fundamental problems with a plan that includes assigning front-line personnel to command support roles. First, staffing levels may not support this. Second, front line personnel assigned to assist command may not have the proper training and experience to fill command support roles. When the former happens, front-line personnel assigned to command support roles may cause a staffing shortage for operational tasks. When the latter occurs, command can actually be hindered by the presence of support personnel who do not know how to perform command support tasks.

The solution is to plan for the need to support commanders in advance of ever having an emergency. Identify where command support personnel should come from and strive to ensure those personnel are properly trained to perform command support duties.

About the Author
Dr. Gasaway is widely considered to be one of the nation’s leading authorities on situational awareness and decision making processes used by first responders. In addition to his more than 30 years in the fire service, including 22 years as a fire chief, Dr. Gasaway has a second passion: Uncovering and applying research in brain science for the benefit of first responders. His website, Situational Awareness Matters (www.SAMatters.com) has enjoyed over a million visits since its launch in October 2011. He can be reached at Support@RichGasaway.com.

TargetSolutions Users Reach Significant Milestone of Completing More Than 14 Million Assignments

TargetSolutions recently reached a landmark achievement related to platform utilization and we want to thank our clients for making it possible. Earlier this month, clients surpassed more than 10 million total custom activities completed on our system since we released the powerful Activities Builder application in 2008. Combined with completed courses, users have now surpassed 14 million total assignments.

“We are averaging around 300,000 course completions per month and we are anticipating the number to continue to grow, reaching 5 million more completions in the upcoming year in 2013,” said Vice President of Operations Alex Day.

With TargetSolutions flexible Activities Builder application, organizations can create any type of training documentation they desire and attach it to an activity or course. Custom activities include everything from custom courses, inspection sheets, policy reviews, surveys, etc. These activities are seamlessly delivered from within the platform to users. In addition, administrators can ensure accountability by attaching e-signatures and tracking capabilities.

Surpassing 14 million assignments shows clients are continuing to increase utilization and integrating the platform into their everyday training regimens, Day said.

“Our clients know better than we do what is going to help their industry thrive,” Day said. “Activities Builder is a powerful application that helps administrators tailor certain training assignments and documents to their organizations specific needs. By working closely with clients and taking their feedback into consideration, we have been able to change the way the fire industry manages training.”

Avondales Training and Recordkeeping Goes to Next Level with TargetSolutions

With such a rapidly growing population, Avondale not only wants, but needs the most efficient and powerful technology available – so it only makes sense the department has been a client of TargetSolutions since August of 2005.

“It was a little bit of a growing pain at first, because it was something new,” said Avondale’s Training Captain Aaron Glass. “I think if we were to take TargetSolutions away now it would cause heartache because were using it to track continuing education for paramedic certifications with the platforms Credentials Manager. TargetSolutions has really become an essential part of our training regimen.”

Within the past year Avondale has doubled its platform utilization, helping the department improve its overall efficiency and ensure compliance. Here are a few applications the department is currently benefitting from:

Manage Credentials: This powerful tool helps Avondale stay on top of important expirations. The application allows platform administrators to keep track of employees’ progress as they work to maintain certifications, licenses and much more.

ISO Tracking: With TargetSolutions’ ISO tracking tools, Avondale is able to receive credit for its required continuing education hours so it will be in compliance with ISOs mandates. The ability to report monthly training spreadsheets enables the department to get a better snapshot of their training needs, Glass said.

Client Services: Avondale’s utilization wouldn’t have jumped 100 percent over the last year if not for TargetSolutions outstanding customer support. “TargetSolutions’ customer service is second to none,” Glass said. “The staff is very, very responsive whenever I have a problem or question. Everyone is very helpful.”

TargetSolutions is 100 percent focused on helping clients like Avondale improve their training efficiencies. The results for Avondale are in the department’s eye-popping utilization statistics. In fact, each Avondale user on the system is averaging more than five logins, 12.85 completed activities and nearly two online training courses per month.

With utilization like that, it’s no surprise Avondale is consistently able to meet all of its training requirements.

“I really like TargetSolutions!” said Glass. “Since becoming Training Captain we have begun to utilize more functions within the platform like tracking credentials, creating our own activities, and using alerts, which has made TargetSolutions a vital part of our training management.”

About TargetSolutions
TargetSolutions is the leading provider of training management tools 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.

TargetSolutions’ Sexual Harassment Awareness for Supervisors Course Undergoes Major Enhancements

TargetSolutions is constantly working to upgrade its courses and make the user experience as enriching as possible. Recently, we completed enhancements to the Sexual Harassment Awareness for Supervisors course that have made it more engaging than ever. We have included content utilizing audio and video to boost the courses educational value and appeal.

In the updated Sexual Harassment Awareness for Supervisors course, we have created interactive lessons that include six benchmark Supreme Court cases that have helped shape the definition of sexual harassment in the United States (see image below).

“We’ve implemented scenarios that include dialogue between co-workers where the user can click through the conversation and judge its appropriateness,” said Content Architect Jeremy Lynch. “Once they’ve consumed the information and correctly answered any questions, they can move forward at their own pace.”

TargetSolutions is currently working on improving the basic Sexual Harassment Awareness course in a similar manner in order for more users to benefit from the enhancements. In fact, we are focused on upgrading the experience for our entire library, which now includes more than 1,000 titles. Some of the changes include a more consistent style, engaging multimedia, and shorter, quick-hitting bundles of information.

No Shortcuts When It Comes to Throwing Multiple Ladders on the Fireground

Blog by Ed Hadfield
www.firetowntrainingspecialist.com

It seems that a certain phenomenon has occurred in the fire service, and it’s one that has not benefited the safety and efficiency of our personnel. Has anyone noticed the lack of ladders thrown at the scene of fires in recent times?

How many times have you arrived on scene of a structure fire to find a single ladder thrown to the roof? Have you ever been told we don’t have the available staffing to throw ladders to windows for rescue or potential firefighter egress on two story occupancies? When was the last time you trained by throwing ladders on actual buildings?

We have moved away from the tradition of throwing multiple ladders and we have made excuses why. We have always taught personnel to throw two ladders to a roof for means of access and egress. Yet, how often does that occur? Unfortunately, the second-due truck will use the same ladder thrown by the first-due truck to access the roof. This should be regarded as criminal.

I’ve been asked why we have moved away from throwing multiple ladders at working incident scenes. Although not a scientific answer, it’s my opinion we have added many other components to our list of responsibilities, taking an already understaffed fireground and tasking it with more objectives. As a result, we have cut things viewed as non-essential, all in an effort to check boxes of things deemed essential.

Let’s look at a few ways to get ladders back as part of our arsenal of safety and efficiency equipment list.

First- and Second-Due Trucks:
Establishing a ladder size up is critical for all truck companies. It should be pre-established who will throw ladders and what ladders are to be thrown. It should also be established within your organization that the fastest and safest one-person ladder is the aerial; however, the aerial is seldom used until the incident has gone defensive. First-due company officers often think they need to position their apparatus with the cross-lay lined-up with the front door. This is a mistake. Remember, you can pull an extra 100 feet of hose, the aerial only has so much extension of ladder and believe me, you will thank the truckies for fast, aggressive ventilation when the interior clears up and you are more tenable in making your attack.

All first-due truck companies should be capable of throwing, at a minimum, the aerial and a 35 foot ladder to a multi-story occupancy and performing ventilation operations in a timely fashion. The key to success in this operation is an established set of procedures, positional riding assignments; ladder packages based upon occupancies and most importantly: training, training, training!

Most truck companies should be capable of throwing two ladders of any type and accessing the roof in less than two minutes, 30 seconds from the time of arrival. This is an acceptable standard. This includes full use of PPE and all necessary operational equipment on the roof.

Second-due trucks, or units assigned to assist Roof Division in operations, shall utilize their own means of access and egress, even if this is a single-family dwelling. If things go bad and multiple personnel need to egress off the roof, one ladder per company is the bare minimum. If you are assigned to the roof as a second-due company, and the first-due truck was only able to throw a single ladder for access and egress, make it a point to throw two ladders for a total of three.

A SAFETY NOTE: Never move an established aerial from its original position unless you are the individual that placed the aerial there in the first place, or have made direct contact with the company/individual that did and you have absolute permission to do so.

RIC Companies:
A primary purpose of RIC Companies is the elimination of hazards. One such method is the placement of ladders for means of access on the structure. If the first-due truck is operating on the roof with only one means of access, the RIC Company Officer should direct his personnel to throw one additional ladder to the area nearest the location of the members on the roof.

If the RIC Company Officer is aware of operations above ground on the second floor, they should identify the area closest to the potential of a hostile event or structural failure and have additional ladders placed at windows at a 65 percent angle for firefighters egress. All members operating in that area shall then be notified via radio of the ladders placement and area.

Squads, Rescues and First Due Engineers:
Based upon response configuration, many organizations respond to incidents using medic units with two firefighters as part of the original assignment. If this company is not generally assigned to establish a medical group, it is typically assigned to assist with some other fireground function.

Unfortunately, they are often given the task of RIC and never supplemented by a full company. Yet, these individuals can be given the task of laddering the building or throwing additional ladders upon arrival. These tasks include secondary search, assist RIC, extension or medical group. Once again, the Incident Commander needs to think proactively and eliminate those hazards that are glaringly obvious before deploying an RIC or medical group.

First-due engineers should know once a water supply has been established and lines are stretched in-service, they have a moment to identify hazards and take proactive action. One of those tasks could be throwing an additional straight ladder to the roof of a single-family occupancy near the window as personnel may need immediate egress due to deteriorating conditions.

Finally, it’s key to recognize the importance of aggressive laddering operations for all personnel, not just our truck companies. Personnel need to be well versed in aggressive ladder placement and ladder packages related to occupancy groups and types. The importance of providing means of access and egress points on all above ground areas will greatly increase personnel safety.

Company Officers should take the necessary steps to assure personnel have the ability to effectively perform laddering operations and to ensure they have a solid understanding of ladder tactics as it relates to differing type of occupancies. Nothing can take the place of real-world ladder operations and training in full PPE, not just helmets and gloves.

When we start wearing just helmets and gloves to structure fires, then our training should mirror that level of PPE. But we all know that’s not a viable option. We need to train the way we fight fire and we need to train as though lives depend upon it, because they do.

About the Author
Ed Hadfield has more than 26 years of fire service experience after rising through the ranks from firefighter to division chief. He is a frequent speaker on leadership, sharing his experiences within the fire service and also with corporate and civic leaders throughout the United States. For more on Hadfield, please check online at www.firetowntrainingspecialist.com.

Improvements to User Selector Tool Saves Time for Administrators

In a recent blog post, we reported on our efforts to improve the User Selector tool. We are excited to announce those changes are now available for clients. While most of the improvements were behind-the-scenes work, you will notice several small changes to the design of the tool, including the elimination of the checkbox graphics in the middle pane of the tool, as well a change to the way names are displayed (Smith, Joe instead of Joe Smith).

We have also implemented a third-pane display for Users Selected. This pane will list users and give you the option to sort selected users alphabetically by name.

We are confident these improvements to User Selector tool will make your experience much faster. And soon, the tool will also include the ability to search by employee ID. This change has been heavily requested and we are looking to launch it before the end of the year.

 

Mastermind Behind TargetSolutions’ Fire Department ISO Tool Joins the Team

TargetSolutions has recently hired Tim Riley, retired Training Chief from Dunedin Fire Department in Florida, as our first Product Specialist. Tim, being a past administrator of the platform for Dunedin, comes to TargetSolutions with a wealth of platform and industry knowledge.

Tim is truly the mastermind behind the fire department ISO solution, which is now available on the TargetSolutions platform. While with Dunedin, he helped us build the application that is extremely efficient for ISO tracking of training.

In his new capacity as Product Specialist, Tim will work closely with our East Coast departments, helping ensure they get the most out of the program. Tim will be hosting user groups, webinars and making department visits when needed. In fact, Tim will be presenting Company Training Officer Sessions in Florida next week (Dec. 10-12). The sessions are being held at Station 84 in Miramar, Fla., at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. If you would like to attend, please e-mail TargetSolutions at usergroup@targetsolutions.com.

Tim will cover fire department ISO requirements and the reasoning behind certain training restrictions. He will also offer tips for maneuvering around the TargetSolutions platform, making it easier to find the training that needs documenting and for building reports.

We could not be happier to have Tim on our team as a Product Specialist. If you would like some assistance from Tim, please contact your Account Manager to setup a meeting.

Creating Customized Activities with TargetSolutions Is Essential to El Dorado Irrigation District

The El Dorado Irrigation District in Northern California began operating in 1957, providing drinking water for homes, schools and businesses, as well as recycled water from its wastewater treatment plants to irrigate residential and public landscapes. Water is an essential link within El Dorado County and continues to be an important cog in shaping the county’s economic, ecological and cultural face.

The organization needs a simple and reliable pathway to distribute and track various training requirements. With the organization managing water, wastewater, hydroelectric plants and recreation centers, El Dorado Irrigation District has utilized TargetSolutions since 2009 for organizing and manually setting up training schedules for multiple departments.

“The main reason we use TargetSolutions – and it has been awesome – is to record any type of training our employees have had, including personnel documents,” says Human Resources Technician Dianne Matteson.

“We first started using it for the Sexual Harassment and the drug and alcohol courses for employees and supervisors, workplace diversity, and workplace violence. As we gained momentum, we started creating our own activities. With the Activities Builder application, we have come up with 100 or so activities.”

TargetSolutions has enabled El Dorado Irrigation District to build “custom activities” that cater to specific needs and requirements of the organization. One particular activity this organization has created includes safety inspection lists for managers to record data when inspecting various areas of the plant.

“When creating activities it is easy to do and manage,” Matteson said. “You can add components to it like ‘text’ and ‘certificates.’ ”

From the finance department to the organizations engineers, El Dorado Irrigation District’s employees need to remain compliant with standards that are required by OSHA and wastewater management. With the powerful reporting application the organization is able to generate weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports for supervisors to provide them with vital statistics on incompletion or completions of courses and policies.

The TargetSolutions report generator has saved El Dorado Irrigation District many hours or manual recordkeeping. Eliminating file cabinets and keeping records of training, certificates and personnel documents within the platforms File Center helps the organization make data easily accessible.

In order to avoid fines of thousands of dollars, El Dorado Irrigation District trains, tracks and reports online with TargetSolutions. With OSHA checking on the organization periodically, the report generator is able to provide accurate and detailed documentation of course completions.

“TargetSolutions is wonderful,” Matteson said. “If people aren’t using it or have never used it before, they should definitely give it a chance because it is probably one of the best programs I’ve used.”

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.