Technology with a Purpose

Archive for June, 2013

Looking to Remain Organized, Efficient and Compliant, Canadian Department Turns to TargetSolutions

Mississauga Fire and Emergenc Services

Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services was originally established in 1974. To this day, it carries the same mission statement: To protect life, property and the environment in Mississauga from all perils, through education, prevention, investigation, training, rescue, fire suppression, dangerous goods containment and life support services.

The department’s responsibilities include serving more than 740,000 citizens spread across 288-square kilometers. With a team of 616 members across 20 stations, the department responds to more than 25,000 calls per year.

In order to properly protect the community, Mississauga must be well-trained and well-prepared for duty every day. The department implemented TargetSolutions in October of 2006 to help remain organized, efficient and compliant. To that effect, the industry’s leading online training and records management system has complemented the department’s hands-on training techniques, while replacing a paper-based system for maintaining compliance records.

From the beginning, our main interest was streamlining recordkeeping, said Matheson. The ability to easily produce training reports was our initial need.

Although TargetSolutions is based in the United States, its platform’s capabilities stretch beyond its borders. That’s why Global Risk Innovations works to bring the powerful training management tools to departments like Mississauga in the Canadian market. Division Chief Shawn Matheson, who is responsible for all of Mississauga’s various training needs, has found value in the platform.

Mississauga has benefited from TargetSolutions’ reporting functionality, specifically the ability to create detailed reports of completed training activities. TargetSolutions provides innovative tools that allow departments like Mississauga to consistently distribute training material. The department is even able to take real-life incidents and turn them into online courses.

“We recently responded to a house fire that had a lot of different outcomes as far as lessons learned for our staff. We were able to take pictures and information from that incident and turn it into a custom activity course by importing a PowerPoint slideshow onto TargetSolutions.”

Shawn Matheson, Division Chief

Matheson also mentioned the department’s use of custom tests to enhance the learning experience for personnel. Custom tests provide an excellent way to ensure that the employee adequately understands the course material and is proficient in that particular area.

“We are able to create various forms of learning and then back up the material with a quiz,” Matheson said. “The custom activities that we create on the TargetSolutions platform become part of our annual training curriculum. We have a certain amount of training that we expect from our firefighters on a continuing education basis and a large portion of that is going out on the TargetSolutions system.”

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

Competition, Peer Pressure and Situational Awareness

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

During a recent situational awareness program we were talking about near-miss events and I asked the class if anyone had experienced a near-miss. As is typical, a few hands went up. With their permission, we used the students’ real-life experiences to discuss how things unfolded and we extracted and applied powerful situational awareness lessons. It’s a great way to learn because these are not made-up “what if” scenarios or a dissection of videos snagged off the Internet. These are real events that, if only by luck, the student is still with us to share their lessons.

During this particular program a participant shared how his crew arrived on the scene of a working residential dwelling fire where smoke was coming out the front door. The crew pulled the line and advanced it in the front door in search of victims and to extinguish the fire. But they didn’t get far. The floor collapsed under their weight and into the basement they went.

A mayday was called and, as luck would have it, the second-in company arrived quickly and was able to lower a ladder into the basement and extricated the two firefighters from their imperiled situation. The two firefighters suffered fall injuries and thermal injuries. But no fatalities! So the firefighter telling about the event classified it as a near-miss.

In the process of constructing how the events unfolded, he shared that a 360-degree size-up was not completed. Sadly, the failure to complete a size-up is often cited as a contributing factor in casualty reports. This is understandable. The size-up is the first, and sometimes only, opportunity for responders to determine what the problem is before they start throwing around solutions. Shortcut the size-up and you risk operating with flawed situational awareness.

The crew thought the fire was on the first floor. It wasn’t. It was in the basement. The front of the house was on-grade. The back of the house, however, was a walk-out with plenty of windows that would have revealed the volume of fire in the basement if the 360-degree size-up were completed.

While it is easy to see how the failure to complete a size-up contributed to this near tragic event, it is critical to understand WHY the size-up was not completed. There are many possible explanations, ranging from accessibility issues, to tunnel vision, to task fixation, to imminent rescue pending, and more. But in this case, the explanation was none of those. The reason was rooted in competition and peer pressure.

The officer shared this explanation with the class:

“I am a newer company officer and our fire companies are very aggressive interior structural firefighters. We pride ourselves on getting inside and getting the job done. I know I’m supposed to conduct a 360-degree size up but if we charged our line and then did a walk around there is a chance another company would come in and take our line and go put the fire out. And if that happened, I’d never hear the end of it. The other firefighters on our shift would kill us and eat us for pussy-footing around instead of putting the fire out. I simply could not afford to take that kind of risk with my career and gain a reputation of being a non-aggressive officer.”

I give this officer a lot of credit for sharing his honest assessment, especially in the presence of his peers. The aggressive, competitive culture of his organization, coupled with peer pressure kept him from completing the size-up. I found it particularly concerning when he said he could not afford to take the risk of getting a reputation among his peers. In saying that, he was rating the risk of peer rejection higher than the risk of death.

Firefighters are competitive by nature. They train hard and work hard to win. But the opponent in this fight is not each other. The opponent is the fire and when a culture lends itself to cut-throat internal competition, coupled with peer-pressure to shortcut or bypass best practices (like size-up), the potential for flawed situational awareness increases as does the potential for a casualty.

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 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 more than a million visits since its launch in October 2011.

 

Make Training Management More Efficient by Creating Categories and Groups Inside TargetSolutions

Organizations can customize their TargetSolutions account by creating categories and groups inside the platform. This helps platform managers regulate activity by defining groups and assigning supervisors to oversee those groups.

Organizations can add as many categories and groups as they would like. When establishing categories it is helpful for administrators to consider how they intend to designate supervisory rights, run reports and assign courses. To assign training to just the B shift, for example, be sure to create a group for B in the shift category. Platform managers may also want to ask some of the following questions:

Which groups belong in each category?

Where are supervisors?

Will the category selection be a user fill-in response?

Platform managers will need to contact TargetSolutions to create or remove categories. Examples of categories include: department, division and job title. Once categories are established, platform managers can fill them with groups.

Creating categories and groups can make training management more efficient. Doing so permits platform managers to quickly assign courses and establish supervisory rights depending on how their organization is set up.

For more information or if you have any questions, please contact TargetSolutions or your account manager directly.

Managing TargetSolutions’ Mandatory Timer Requirement for Continuing Education Credit

TargetSolutions timer requirement has been an issue for some clients. But the timer system was put in for good reason.

All courses taken for EMT continuing education credit with a TargetSolutions accredited certificate issued upon completion have a timer set for at least 25 minutes, but could be higher if mandated by a regulatory agency. And in states where a course is approved for continuing education, the timer currently must remain in place, even if the online EMT training course is only being used for review and the user does not want a certificate.

“We take our accreditation with regulatory agencies very seriously, but at the same time we do not want to alienate users for the sake of compliance,” said Content Architect Jeremy Lynch. “Because of this, we walk a fine line of delivering the appropriate amount of accredited content that meets the minimum time required to get credit for the course.”

Here’s how TargetSolutions timer works: The amount of time a user spends on a slide is the amount of time they receive toward the time requirement with a maximum of five minutes per slide. If they spend 30 seconds on a slide, they get 30 seconds of credit toward the time requirement.

If a user ever reaches the end of the course and has not fulfilled the time requirement to take the exam, Lynch recommends users go back and spend more time on each slide, rather than quickly navigating through each page of the course again. “This will help ensure they meet the mandatory time requirement,” he said.

Good Data Doesn’t Just Happen: A Few Steps for Better Recordkeeping

Blog by Brian Drolet
www.FireRMSData.com

Are you frustrated you’re not receiving the data you need? Do your reports provide you the information you were expecting? Before ditching your records management software, you should examine your data business practices to ensure the processes for collecting data, the configurations and reports that hold and present your data, are functional and effective.

The elusive mystical data we are all chasing can be obtained, but the process has to be managed. If you want specific data, all participants in the collection and reporting of that data need to adhere to the same criteria, and all components must be defined and coordinated.

Do you have established business practices regarding workflow and data collection? Are your firefighters knowledgeable and trained regarding your data collection wants and needs. Is there a plan to get you the data you need, or are you thinking, it should all be there?

To get what you need, you will have to organize, plan and execute the work before seeing good data reporting. Your data needs to be reliable, dependable, consistent and repeatable. Without a data management plan, you can only hope you get the data you want or need; but hoping can lead to doubting, and doubting impacts the reliability and usability of the data.

The records management system you’re using is probably a good container of data holding area per se, but you have to establish how the programs are best utilized, how the data should be collected and what specific data should be reported.

As a first step, what may be needed is a review and recommitment to the goal of good data collection and reporting.

Secondly, set your data goals and define the work that needs to be performed. Set accountability and responsibilities, and be sure to implement training regarding data collection and review, prior to needing the data.

Good data management starts with a plan. Do you have one?

About the Author
Brian Drolet is a 25 year Career Firefighter with a Southern California Fire Department. He operates a Fire Department Data Consulting Service assisting over 100 Departments in various aspects of collection, reporting, Data Management Planning and defining business practices regarding the Fire Service. For more information, please check online at http://firermsdata.net/.

 

Seminole County Division Chief Praises TargetSolutions’ Powerful Applications We Couldnt Live Without It

The Seminole County Fire Department has grown into one of the largest departments in Central Florida. The department has existed since 1974 with one goal: To serve the community and improve the quality of life for more than 422,000 citizens who live in the county. That goal is made clear in the department’s mission statement: “5 Minute Response Time. Trained Personnel. Adequate Resources. Constant Prevention. Go Home Safe.”

But with 18 stations, nearly 400 personnel, and 30,000-plus service calls to respond to annually, the department has a great deal of responsibility. Maintaining an organized, well-trained crew is vital to the efficiency of the department.

Prior to joining TargetSolutions in January 2009, tracking training was a cumbersome task. The department was forced to rely on extra staffing to monitor and enforce all of its training needs.

“We had to have multiple databases, as well as multiple assistants to track credentials,” said Division Chief of Professional Standards Todd Gaddy. “We had to have someone to look at the calendar and see who was ready to expire, and then notify the people on that list by manually sending e-mails. The process kept us from being as compliant as we are currently.”

The implementation of TargetSolutions has helped eliminate the need for some of the staff-hours that it previously took to manage the organization. With the industry’s leading online training and records management system at its disposal, the department relies on automatic e-mail alerts to notify personnel when they are coming up on an expiring credential.

“We have it set up with a supervisory chain of command,” said Gaddy. “When the credential gets closer to the deadline, it notifies the supervisors.”

Another feature Seminole County uses to maintain compliance is e-signatures on organizational documents.

“When we send out operation bulletins, safety bulletins, and other important documents, we make sure to include the e-signature,” said Gaddy. “It allows us to ensure that all of the firefighters opened the document and clicked to indicate that they understand. Nobody can say they never got it anymore.”

The ability to send out documents with a web-based solution has helped the department maintain compliance, while completely eliminating paper files.

The department has also made great use of the Activities Builder application within TargetSolutions. With nearly 900 custom activities created, the department has found its solution for documenting hands-on training, as well as delivering department-created material.

“Instead of gathering everybody and going to a different station to receive training, or an introduction to a new product, we can create a PowerPoint presentation and share it as a custom activity,” said Gaddy. “Firefighters then have the ability to reference the PowerPoint at any time down the road.”

The department has done an excellent job of maximizing TargetSolutions’ capabilities within the organization.

“We couldn’t live without it,” Gaddy said.

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

TargetSolutions Works Its Way Across Country with Special User Group Training Events

For years, TargetSolutions has hosted user group training events all across the country. But in 2013, we’ve picked it up a notch. Over the last few months, we’ve held events in California, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Missouri. This week, we’re holding three more: a User Group on Tuesday at Wesley Chapel Volunteer Fire Department in North Carolina and two special Company Officer Training Seminars in South Carolina with Product Specialist Tim Riley on Thursday and Friday.

These special training events are held with one goal in mind: To educate clients on how they can maximize TargetSolutions online training management system.

The sessions are hosted at clients departments and various training topics are covered. Whether its a new release, a platform enhancement, the ISO Training Tracker, or general tips and tricks, there is always something to talk about.

Platform managers come together to learn what other platform managers are doing with the platform. These events are valuable for clients as they share personal success stories and listen to their peers, gaining insight into the system. Christine Boozer, who is a civilian training officer with Fresno Fire Department in California, attended a user group session in San Diego and came away with several new ideas.

I thought the user group went well, Boozer said. It was great because we got a couple tips out of it. I had not thought of using certificates for anything beyond what is necessary for EMT. So, using certificates for our USAR teams, for their dive requirements; or using them for our specialty teams for the instructors would be great. I always get something out of these user groups that I did not know before.

We believe user groups are pivotal to our clients successthats why TargetSolutions is so committed to regularly hosting them. We hope you are able to attend one in the future! Please keep an eye out for e-mails from TargetSolutions about upcoming events in your area! And if you would like more information about this week’s events in North Carolina and South Carolina, please contact us today.

Need Help Implementing Online Training at Your Fire or Police Department?

Blog by Bill Booth
Interact Business Group

How did you answer the question raised in this articles headline?

Yes, we need to do something.

Yes, we tried, but we have to make a change.

Yes, we need to get started, let’s give it a try.

We have already started, its working, but we can do better.

I recently taught a class titled, Strategies & Tactics for Success with On-Line Training and Education. The class focused on online training in public safety departments. The audience was training officers, directors, chiefs, department budget staff, technology officers, and instructors.

Sound Familiar?
Most class attendees fell into one of the following four categories:

1. We have been meaning to look into computer based training, but can’t seem to find the time or budget.

2. We don’t know really how or where to begin.

3. We need to reduce our training budget; will computer courses help me do that?

4. Yes, we bought some online courses, it’s working OK, but we can do better.

NOTE: Although the class was attended primarily by fire service staff, the subject matter of online and e-learning could easily crossed over to law enforcement and all areas of safety training.

Why You Should Keep Reading
Attendees to the class or readers of this post (you) have an interest in learning about how to:

1. Start using online learning courses and technology.

2. You are in the early staging of incorporating online training and want to avoid rookie mistakes.

3. Develop a tactical (short term) and strategic (long term) plan for using and benefiting from online learning.

Following is a summary synopsis of the class:

Start With The End In Mind
If a public safety department, police, fire, EMS, etc. is considering implementing online training technologies, the training chief or project team leader must establish their end game goals. Using the following three principles when developing the specific goals and objectives for the project will serve as the guiding principles for the project.

>> Be specific: Identify exactly what you want to accomplish with as many specific details as possible.

>> Be measurable: As the old adage says, You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

>> Be realistic: Set goals and objectives that reach beyond the comfort zone, but are also realistic. Be careful with this one.

Establish Implementation Tactics
There are ten key implementation tactics needed for successful implementation of online learning for a public safety department; they include:

1. Establish a project team. Include other banner carriers and allies.

2. Define the vision and goals. What does a successful program look like?

3. Define learning needs and wants. Why are we doing this and what solution does it provide?

4. Define established technology infrastructure. What does your existing technical infrastructure look like?

5. Define existing courseware. What do you already have that can be used or repurposed?

6. Baseline available technologies and courseware. What technology is available in the marketplace?

7. Develop implementation and phasing scenario. What is your step-by-step approach?

8. Develop cost budgets. Consider purchasing equipment, software, hired technical assistance, and so on.

9. Measure and evaluate cost benefits. Set milestones that are measurable, observable, and serve as progress markers.

10. Management buy-in and funding. Get everyone on the same page and get them to support the endeavor.

Where and How To Begin
As illustrated in the 10 implementation tactics, getting started requires considerable planning, management buy-in, technology understanding, and funding. When first staring out ask yourself the following seven questions. This a good starting point and the questions will help you to understand the full needs, impact and depth of the project:

1. What authoring system should we use?

2. Should we buy off-the-shelf prepackaged software?

3. Should we develop our own courses?

4. What type of hardware do we need?

5. Will it keep us compliant with legal requirements?

6. How do we track and schedule our training?

7. What class topics will be best learned through e-learning?

This post is intended to provide a short synopsis of how to get started with implementing online training programs for your department. Again, this is just a guideline to get the ball moving.

About the Author
Bill Booth’s organization, the Interact Business Group, is recognized as a national leader for the development of strategic business plans for the public safety training centers. In 2012, Booth started ResponderGateway.net, which is a news, opinions and technology website. He lives in Northern San Diego County with his wife Carole. He can be followed on twitter @InteractBill.

 

New Save and Assign Tool Enhances TargetSolutions’ Activity Building Capabilities

 

If you’ve been waiting for an enhancement that allows both platform managers and users to complete different portions of the same activity, you’re in luck! In May, TargetSolutions released its new Save and Assign application, enabling platform managers to partially complete an activity before delivering it to users.

The Save and Assign application is accessible through the Administration tab under Record Completions. This new tool was built for organizations needing more flexibility in tracking evaluation forms, performance reviews and certificate completions. We’re confident all public entities will find value in this enhanced assignment-building tool.

Platform Administrators can assign different parts of the same Activity to supervisors and users for completion.

“This new application makes it simple for our clients to complete different portions of the same activity. This is a big win for groups managing performance reviews or professional certificates with our program, among other things,” said TargetSolutions’ Strategic Risk Management Business Unit Manager Kelly Zielinski.

“Our technology team is always looking for ways to enhance existing applications. This enhancement to Activities Builder gives platform managers more flexibility when creating custom activities.”

In particular, school districts will benefit from this tool when site managers are scheduling performance evaluations, questionnaire surveys, inventory updates or bus checks.

The Save and Assign application immediately helped the DeKalb Fire Department in Georgia when the entire department was required to attend a customer service class, but employees attended at different times. The Save and Assign app enabled the individual users to fill-in information specific to their own class like instructor, class location, etc.

“Save and Assign helps keep training records consistent,” said DeKalb’s Chief Bill Voorhies. “By giving users the ability to fill in information related to a location, or an instructor, and then send it back complete is important to the integrity of our training records.”

TargetSolutions recently recorded a live tutorial on the new application. Please click here to view the presentation. If you’d like more information about this application, or any application inside TargetSolutions, please contact us today!

About TargetSolutions
TargetSolutions is the leading provider of web-based technology solutions for public entities. These solutions enable organizations to maintain compliance, reduce losses, deliver curriculum, and track all tasks, certifications and training activities.

TargetSolutions Enhances Its Online Course Catalog for School Districts

 

School district employees are required by law to report any suspected incidents of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of students. And along with protecting our young people from those incidents comes a responsibility to educate those in charge of our kids on how to handle these types of situations.

The newly revised TargetSolutions course, Reporting Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Children, will do just that. The course covers signs of an abusive situation, how to respond if you suspect abuse, neglect, or exploitation, appropriate interaction with students, and what to do if a fellow staff member seems to be acting inappropriately.

“TargetSolutions has courses that help train some pretty important people – firefighters, EMTs, police officers,” said Content Architect Jeremy Lynch. “But the parent in me thinks you’d be hard pressed to find a course in our catalog that’s more important than this one.”

This new course isn’t the only update the School Districts section of the catalog will be receiving, however. Two new titles – Special Education: Proper Use of Seclusion and Restraint and FERPA: Privacy for Students – are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

“Looking out for the children in our communities is everyone’s responsibility,” said Kelly Zielinski, who serves as TargetSolutions’ risk pool business unit manager. That’s why we’re excited to be able to deliver these new courses that empower educators with the information and training they need to make our schools safer.

Our newest revised course, Reporting Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of Children, gives our users the tools they need to confidently identify and react in difficult situations where a child’s well-being is in jeopardy.

About TargetSolutions
TargetSolutions is the leading provider of web-based technology solutions for public entities. These solutions enable organizations to maintain compliance, reduce losses, deliver curriculum, and track all tasks, certifications and training activities.