The Chesterfield Fire and EMS Department, located in Virginia, is a combo department comprised of 487 career staff (including 207 ALS Providers) and 300 volunteer personnel, all of whom are, at a minimum, certified as EMT-Basics. Serving an area of 426-square miles, and a population of more than 323,000 citizens, the agency provides fire and EMS services, as well as Technical Rescue, HazMat and a paramedic staff for the Virginia State Police’s medevac helicopter program.
Faced with a growing demand for service, and a growing organization, Chesterfield began to see difficulties with finding both the time and means to provide education to its varied personnel base and track a wide variety of certifications – critical to maintaining fire department ISO compliance. Brick-and-mortar training, long the standard in public safety, required vehicles and crews to be taken out of service, which simply became unacceptable as the area’s population grew 21 percent over a 10-year period ending in 2010.
To meet the department’s needs, Battalion Chief Chris Basdikis was tasked to examine fire department training solutions on the market to find one that had the muscle and reliability to handle Chesterfield’s broadly diverse set of needs and personnel specialties. Several online fire training platforms were piloted and put through their paces before TargetSolutions was selected.
“It was the product suite which best suited our organization’s needs to have both a Records Management System and a Learning Management System,” says Basdikis, allowing seamless integration between the delivery of online firefighter training and the tracking and accountability of that delivery.
Additionally, the online fire training system offered the flexibility to allow Chesterfield to custom-build modules with relative ease, important for several reasons: first, it allowed the agency to build in tracking of employee training records for state and federal requirements, such as OSHA requirements. Second, since the agency recovers revenue through billing for EMS service, it provided the capability to prove conclusively that providers were up-to-date with certifications – especially difficult with volunteer personnel who may only do a few shifts each month. Finally, the system was configured to send out reminders on an automated basis to personnel whose certifications are expiring in the near future.
TargetSolutions was implemented over a three-year period with some funding from Federal grants. This allowed Chesterfield to build the infrastructure of the system out gradually, and roll out different features in stages, beginning with ALS continuing education and tracking of contact hours (including sessions attended). The department was then able to monitor all aspects of its program when it came to education and certification, along with additional functionality, including a communications hub to deliver important information such as medical protocol updates. As might have been expected in any public safety agency, there was some initial resistance from personnel. Thanks to a short learning curve, and a user-friendly interface, Chief Basdikis says that was quickly put aside, and the system is now globally well-received and utilized.
For the agency, the changes in efficiency have been nothing short of remarkable. The system allows the department to pre-load didactic education materials before personnel arrive at one of the agency’s dedicated training centers, maximizing the actual contact time personnel have in terms of educational hours as personnel are able to download materials ahead of time.
In addition, the fire department ISO reviewing process has become easier, especially in terms of tracking target hazards within the community and ensuring personnel are addressing appropriate training. The online fire training system has allowed Chesterfield to consistently deliver high quality training to personnel of all ranks and specialties. With so many different hats worn, from the volunteer rescue squad member, to the Hazmat response team member, to the flight paramedic in the air, this was previously a daunting process.
By effectively tracking training, Chesterfield is now in a responsible position and is leading efforts to ensure personnel are prepared for when the unthinkable happens to a citizen and they pick up the phone to call for help.
TargetSolutions delivers cutting-edge software applications, engaging online training courses and world-class customer service. TargetSolutions was founded in 1999 and today there are more than 2,000 organizations across the country using its technology to solve their training needs.