Friday, March 21, 2014

FireView Dashboard

This week, we have begun to roll out a new application at Lincoln Fire & Rescue, FireView Dashboard from the Omega Group. We have been using their police application, CrimeView Dashboard, at the Lincoln Police Department for several years. These products are examples of many in the marketplace for both government and the private sector that provide tools for analyzing, visualizing, and reporting data from large back-office databases. The object of such products is to provide views of data that are more intuitive and meaningful than green-striped paper spitting from a line printer.
Here are a few examples of things that I've learned or had reinforced by FireView Dashboard as I've worked on setting up data views in the past few weeks. These individual view frames are called widgets, and we have authored 391 of those for the application. That is only the pre-configured portion, though, as the Analysis Mode allows users to create a virtually unlimited number of queries on the fly. The images are just screen shots; in the app you can zoom, pan, change the view (for instance from a map to a day-of-week chart), and drill down as far as you wish--even to the individual incident data. I don't think any of these are a big surprise to firefighters in Lincoln, and some were things that I already knew or suspected, but they are now immediately clear. Click on any of these images for a slightly larger and more legible view.

Medical emergencies dominate
EMS is nearly 80% of our business, and the remainder is composed primarily of false alarms and standby duty at athletic events. Fires are few. I think of them as low frequency, but high-criticality events, for which you must be properly equipped and trained, despite their rarity. Since our core business is emergency medical services, our recruitment, hiring, training, and organizational culture need to reflect the reality of what we actually do. This ought also inform our decisions about what to drive.

The rhythm of the day
The demand for LF&R services peaks at about the same time as the demand for police services: around the time of the evening rush hour. We should keep this in mind when planning discretionary activity like a workout or fueling up the rig during this time, in order to maximize our availability and minimize turnout time.

Problematic false alarms
I've blogged on many occasions about efforts by the police to reduce chronic false burglar alarms, and the value thereof. A burglar alarm, however, is small potatoes compared to a false fire alarm, which sends a convoy of resources by comparison: six to eight firefighters in at least two large apparatus that suck diesel fuel at around 3.5 MPG. If we do something in collaboration with the owners or managers to reduce repeat false alarms, it  be a will be a very good thing. It's not just the resources, either. I walk by the photos of three firefighters and three police officers nearly every day, who were killed in the line of duty during emergency driving. Reducing unnecessary Code 3 driving protects everyone.

Residential fire hotspot
House fires have a strong geographic pattern in Lincoln, one that I have seen before. The same pattern is evident in crime. Despite the conventional wisdom, I do not believe this pattern of house fires is the result of newer construction at the edge. Rather, I think it is a reflection of population density and a host of socio-economic factors. The historic core of Lincoln, represented by an ellipse that runs roughly from Cooper Park in the southwest to the edge of Nebraska Wesleyan University in the northeast, is where we need the most fire suppression capability, and a great place to focus fire prevention work.

These are only a few examples of how we can use data and analysis to help guide our operations. FireView Dashboard is a powerful application with immense capabilities, and this is not even scratching the surface. Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that I am an advocate for, and practitioner of, data-driven management. In this day and age it is critical for public-sector organizations to make decisions based on analysis, and to optimize their service-delivery wherever possible.


Anonymous said...

Any chance of a publicly-accessible site similar to, perhaps or something along those lines?

Anonymous said...

Urk, I just saw that some blogger has the domain, so it'd have to be something else.

Tom Casady said...


Doubtful. While there are several vendors of public-facing web mapping applications for crime, neither the Omega Group nor any other provider I know of offers such an app on the fire side. Probably not as much demand from the public. While we could stand one up on our own, we wouldn't be able to include the medical calls due to HIPPA. Plotting these on a map, even with the address fuzzed up a bit, would not pass muster. Since that's nearly 80% of our business, it would render such an app rather pointless.

Anonymous said...

This is great work! Smart and efficient! Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

We have something similar at my work, that gives us a view of sales, shipment, website traffic, repeat customers, and other stuff. Before, some of us kept our own spreadsheets and it was pretty tedious, but now you can see these things quickly, stay up to date, and everyone has the same figures. It is interesting to see that fire and police are tracking performance data like this to improve. Too bad the federal government doesn't do likewise. The Affordable Care Act website and fiasco is scary, and their inability to produce basic stats on signups.

Anonymous said...

Unrelated, but possibly quite timely: When I saw the name Terrance Nevels, it rang a bell - this is why. Just out on parole late last summer.

Hmm, did someone say something about "good time" for violent felons?

Steve said...

@anon 10:58

Good catch. I thought I'd seen that name and face before, too. This type of thing is probably far more common than most people realize. Nobody wants to pay for jails. Everyone is worried about overcrowding of criminals. Officials are trying to save money and avoid having to build more prisons, yet we constantly put our citizens in jeopardy by allowing these thugs to roam free in society instead of rotting in jail where they belong. If there is one thing my taxes pay for that is really worth it to me, it's law enforcement. Without it, we are either a nation of victims, or a nation of vigilantes; take your pick.

Anonymous said...

Is this person, busted for burglary down in Houston last fall, the same Terrance Nevels? The age is right, as are the major facial features; he's just older and heftier. If so, he's been a busy guy while on parole.

Perhaps getting rid of "good time" for violent felons, building more cell blocks, and paying to keep this sort of offender in prison for as long as possible is, in the big picture, cheaper than having them out amidst us, since the recidivism rates for serious violent and property crimes are quite high.