Moving From Paper to Digital Logs

Issue 11 and Volume 9.

As fire departments nationwide transition to digital systems to handle everything from shift schedules to emergency reporting, most still use paper logbooks to track their maintenance checks. With today’s departments stretched thinner than ever, being able to track an ever-expanding array of equipment is critical—yet it’s still being done on checklists that are filed and forgotten.

Under the best conditions, paper maintenance logbooks invite mistakes and miscommunication. Even when everything is adequately checked and recorded, issues arise. Paper logs are often outdated and don’t include all of the equipment that needs to be checked. They don’t always stand up in court as a way of proving compliance. And there is typically no built-in mechanism to ensure that everyone who needs to be in the know is fully informed at all times. That’s where digital logbooks can be very useful.

Improving on Paper

Today there are programs that schedule, track monitor, and document all the day-to-day operations in a fire department. Just as digital systems have helped improve response and records management, they have also increased efficiency within fire stations.

Despite the benefits of digital station management programs, some departments are reluctant to make the switch. It’s either too much work, too much money or both. But many early adopters of these programs have been pleasantly surprised with the transition.

Captain Peter McElvaney of Boulder (Colo.) Rural Fire Rescue recently signed up with PSTrax.com to help automate the apparatus, equipment and inventory checks within his department. “Before, it was difficult to figure out what checks needed to be done,” says McElvaney. “You’re juggling NFPA guidelines, manufacturer specs and department SOPs. But since we’ve started using the program, everyone is on the same page and nothing gets overlooked. It tells us what needs to be checked, when it needs to be done and how to do it. Instead of a clipboard, we have a tablet, meaning that everything gets documented and stored automatically.”

Chief Doug Yurecko of Waynesville (Mo.) Fire Protection District has had a similar experience, though he was apprehensive at first. “I’d seen the price tags of many software programs out there and I was worried that a digital logbook program wouldn’t fit within our budget,” claims Yurecko. “But the price tag was very reasonable. And when you consider how much more efficient we’ve become, it’s been worth it.”

The transition from paper logbooks to digital systems will undoubtedly take time, especially in an industry where tradition can impede progress. But as the technology gets better and departments are more streamlined, the benefits will greatly outweigh the costs. missing image file