New computer software to help Kelowna Fire Department plan for the future
The Kelowna Fire Department says the addition of specialized new software, that will cost the city just under $500,000 to buy and operate over the next three years, will help it make better decisions when responding to fires and planning for the future.
KFD chief Jeff Carlisle and deputy chief Jason Brolund appeared before city council Monday to justify the planned city spending, $212,572 of which was approved in last month's provisional 2014 city budget.
Brolund said the software, called a predictive modelling and dynamic deployment system, can be used in many ways to help fire departments manage their resources in real time as well as plan for the future. In the past, consultants have been hired on a one-off basis to advise on single issue projects that the software can now handle.
"But it must be remembered, this software will only make recommendations," said Brolund. "It's not creating a world where the computer overrules the fire officer int he field."
But he said if recommendations vary from the field commander's directives, that could be used as a leaning experience for the department as well.
He said the software is already in use by several large North American fire departments, such as New York City, San Diego, Anaheim, Edmonton and Toronto. In B.C., it is used by the fire departments in Abbotsford, Nanaimo, Langley, Surrey, North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District and West Vancouver.
And Carlisle said it has met with success in many of those communities.
For instance, he said in the two North Vancouvers and West Vancouver, it has helped identify the closest fire truck to an incident, regardless of which department it belongs to. That has helped reduce response times and, in his words, basically eradicated municipal borders between the three municipalities when it comes to fire response.
It can also help identify the need, or possible lack of need, for new fire halls based on existing resources and requirements according to historical data.
"There are many different ways this system can be used and problems it can be tasked to assist in solving," said Carlisle in his written report to council. "Fire departments use the system to support strategies such as station relocation, traffic signal preemption and increased distribution of existing staff and stations to cover larger areas."
Borlund told council a local example of how the system could be used would be to figure out if a new fire hall on KLO Road is needed or if existing halls can cover the area adequately.
Council asked for justification for the software when it approved the first year of spending on the program during its provisional budget deliberations in December.
Based on their reaction, councillors appeared to like what they heard Monday.
"It's important that when technology becomes available, we avail ourselves of it—but obviously not at any price," said Coun. Gail Given.
She added the system appears likely to help the city adapt its fire response plans as it builds more roads, as that will affect how quickly fire trucks can get to the scene of a fire in future.
The software has three components, two of which will be used starting this year. The third will be added next year. The cost of buying the software is $165,450 this year for the first two components and another $95,600 for the third component next year.
Carlisle while said no additional staff will be required to use the software, the ongoing operating expenditures of $47,122 in years one, $63,377 in year 2 and $77,339 in year three, will include training, software licensing, computer hardware, GIS mapping and consulting support.
Borlund described the software as a "turn-key" product, meaning it will be ready to use immediately.