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Pre-planning is an aspect of firefighting that often gets put on the back burner. Keeping up with updated floor plans, building materials, fire hydrant locations and other key structural information about every building in a station’s jurisdiction can be time-consuming. For many fire departments, updating pre-planning materials means tracking down updated building information, printing it out, then flipping through hundreds of pages to replace the outdated site plan in the three-ring binders where pre-planning materials are kept. Often, the new site plan gets haphazardly stuck in the binder, leaving the plans outdated and unorganized, which makes them unhelpful.

Using a paper system for firefighter site plans is not only frustrating, but it also puts those plans in danger of getting lost or damaged. Plans may even go unused by firefighters, who don’t always have time to thumb through to find the correct one. Extensive pre-planning can help firefighters do their jobs more effectively. It also helps with the accreditation process.

The good news is pre-planning doesn’t have to be so complicated. Moving site plans to a digital format may take some time up front, but in the long run, it saves fire departments time and money.

Quick Preparation

Paper site plans often leave firefighters a step behind in emergency situations. Firefighters may not have time to find the information they need about a building, or the binder may only have an old site plan. Missing or outdated plans could put firefighters in danger if floorplans have changed and exits are not where the plans show them.

If site plans are in a digital pre-planning app or a document management software, firefighters can easily search an address to pull up building photos and information about roof structure, key exits and hazardous materials that may be inside the building. This helps firefighters and commanders form a plan and decide whether to use offensive or defensive tactics to fight the fire. Having a plan and knowing the building’s layout helps firefighters suppress the fire more quickly and stay safe. And with the click of a button, pre-planning materials can also be shared with other emergency services arriving at the scene.

Easy Updates

When a property is developed, or a building undergoes renovations, updating digital pre-planning materials is much simpler. Software like PowerDMS will automatically archive the old site plans and only show the latest version. Document administrators can collaborate to collect detailed information and updated photos of buildings in their area, and can set reminders to update the materials regularly. They can control who has edit access, so plans never get tampered with or accidentally deleted. And instead of having to print and log the updated information, command staff can automatically share it with all staff who need it, who can then access it from any device at any time.

While any pre-planning is a step in the right direction, departments should consider moving site plans and other pre-planning documents from paper to digital formats. Secure, up-to-date, easily accessible site plans can help fire departments save time, money, property and even lives—and that’s something that should never be overlooked.

Click here to view all the ways fire agencies use PowerDMS (including storing site plans).