BCSFD Implements New DMS
The Belgium Cold Springs Fire District recently rolled out a new Document Management System, or DMS. This new system allows the District to host the policies, SOGs, forms, truck checks and any other documents that members might need in the cloud. The new system enables members to access documents from any internet-connected device.
BCSFD selected PowerDMS as their DMS cloud provider. This was based on a number of criteria including cost, feature set, data security and the well-established history PowerDMS has in the public-safety sector. Thousands of agencies in the US (including Brewerton Fire District, Syracuse Police Department, Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department, Syracuse University Public Safety and Onondaga County 911 Center) have implemented PowerDMS to manage their own policies and procedures.
Before PowerDMS, BCSFD had a very labor-intensive system for managing SOGs and policies. The old review process involved endless emailing and printing of drafts. Once a draft was finally approved, copies of new SOGs or policies had to be emailed to the members and then printed out in hard copy. These hard copies were then distributed to different binders that were kept at each station’s dispatch office, line officer room, etc. This process was completely manual, very difficult to track and extremely susceptible to errors of omission.
BCSFD Board of Fire Commissioners Chairperson, Catherine “Kit” Thompson explains, “The binder method worked great back in the 1970’s and 80’s when it was introduced. But today, it is difficult for our members to access these documents in a timely manner. Members would have to drive to a Station to review the documents. Even then, it was difficult to guarantee the binder had the most recent version or maybe a page fell out or any other host of problems we have seen over the years.”
The District began investigating a better solution after BCSFD Chief Matt Speach announced a 2019 initiative to review and update all of the District’s SOGs. “One of the projects I wanted to tackle in 2019 was a complete review of all of our SOGs. The process took the better part of 2019 due to all the different groups that were involved in the review process. We started in January with our Line Officers reviewing 3 or 4 SOGs each. Those changes were then reviewed by me and turned over to the Board of Fire Commissioners for their final review. The result was a complete revamp and refresh of our SOGs with involvement from both the Department and District.”
For BCSFD, PowerDMS offers a host of features beyond just cloud-based document hosting. Chief Speach explains “We do utilize the Microsoft Office 365 cloud platform here at Belgium which gives us that ability to host documents within SharePoint. But, the PowerDMS advanced document lifecycle management, tracking, sign-off management, advanced publishing, email notifications and review capabilities don’t natively exist on the Microsoft platform.”
BCSFD key features of PowerDMS:
- Cloud Based – BCSFD is always looking for ways to reduce their technology footprint “inhouse.” Given the staffing and time constraints as a 100% volunteer organization, making use of cloud services whenever possible reduces the workload and management inhouse and shift the technical responsibility to a 3rd party vendor.
- Search – All documents in PowerDMS are fully indexed and searchable via a simple “Google like” search. This enables members to find the correct document without having to read through a table of contents, index or memorizing document numbers.
- Mobile Platform – PowerDMS is accessible from any device that has an internet connection. This isn’t limited to desktops and laptops but any mobile device, such as iPhone, iPads and Android devices. BCSFD is also in the final phase of installing MDTs in all the apparatus. The PowerDMS platform can easily be accessed via the onboard MDTs, which provides access to SOGs for our Chiefs and Officers when responding to calls. It’s like having a digital bulletin board for the department that can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
- Signoff Tracking and Reporting – Over the past couple of years the fire service has seen significant changes in how districts and departments do business. Whether it is the NYS Sexual Harassment Laws, mandatory training or ensuring employees and members have signed off on latest policies and procedures, it can be a daunting task. PowerDMS simplifies that process with an easy to use interface and electronic signature tracking. Members are loaded into the system and PowerDMS will send emails notifications whenever a new SOG is added. It will also automatically send notification to members when an SOG change has been published. Once initial setup is complete, PowerDMS manages the entire document lifecycle with very little administrative intervention.
- Easy Update/Modification Process – PowerDMS enables simple updates via their platform. The ability to work on a new “draft” without impacting the current “published” document allows a simplified document review process. Once the draft is approved and published, PowerDMS will send an email notification to the membership and request a new signoff. PowerDMS also takes the optimization of the review process one step further. The system will highlight the changes in the newly published version side-by-side with the previous version. Members are shown exactly what changed so they don’t have to review the entire document from scratch.
“We have been very pleased with the PowerDMS platform so far. We are looking at other ways we can utilize the platform and provide a “one stop shop” for all the members document needs. We started with SOGs and policies but that quickly expanded to hosting truck check forms, meeting minutes, driver training books, sexual harassment forms and SCBA monthly inspection forms and a number of other forms as well,” explains Chief Speach.
For more information on BCSFD please visit: www.bcsfd.org
For more information on PowerDMS please visit: www.powerdms.com