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How Technology Helps with Proactive Fire Defense

3Di Systems | September 11, 2023

4 Minute Read

Faced with fire risks rising each passing year, and especially with the increasing threat of wildfires, fire marshals and public safety leaders are feeling the strain. Despite tireless efforts, the sheer scale of the problem can often feel insurmountable. How can we better protect communities from the devastating effects of fire?

It starts by getting ahead of fire risk with proactive fire defense. Proactive fire defense refers to the strategies and measures taken to prevent fires and mitigate their potential impact when they do occur. It involves a combination of fire safety education, regular inspections, installation and maintenance of fire prevention systems, and effective communication and emergency response plans.

Of course, most fire departments do some level of this already, but most struggle to fully comply with the required level of inspections and prevention activities — there are only so many dollars in the budget, and only so much time in the day.

This is where technology can help — allowing you to maximize the impact of your community risk reduction efforts, creating a safer community with less manpower and less strain on the budget. First though, let’s quickly review why fire prevention is so important, despite fire suppression getting so much of the budget. 

Fire Prevention is Cheaper and More Effective than Fire Suppression

It’s obviously better to prevent a fire than to extinguish one that’s actively putting people and property at risk, but prevention efforts don’t often get the attention they deserve. Why is prevention so important? 

Analyzing data from 1980 to 2014, the total cost of fire activities in the US was $329 billion.

The total cost of fires has been climbing over time (rising by 50% during that time period), while the effects of prevention and risk reduction activities have cut fire damage costs almost in half (47%).

Reduced Damage

Fire prevention measures can significantly reduce the extent of damage caused by a fire. For example, a well-maintained and properly functioning fire alarm system can detect a fire in its early stages, allowing for a quicker response and potentially limiting the spread of the fire.

Practices like home hardening and creating a defensible space around properties can make a huge difference in mitigating wildfire damage as well.

On the other hand, fire suppression efforts often begin after the fire has already caused significant damage. In the case of wildfires, fire agencies may rally thousands of firefighters to slow or stop a fire (spending hundreds of thousands of dollars per week), even when the wildfire is large enough that suppression efforts are effectively futile.

More Efficient Use of Labor and Resources

Fire prevention is generally more cost-effective than fire suppression. The cost of installing and maintaining fire prevention systems, conducting regular inspections, and educating people about fire safety is often significantly less than the cost of suppressing a fire once it has started.  

In contrast, fire suppression requires significant resources, including trained personnel, firefighting equipment, and often, a considerable amount of time. Fire suppression also involves the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property, potential healthcare costs for injuries, and in some cases, the cost of lives lost.

While prevention efforts like processing inspection paperwork don’t feel particularly efficient, today’s fire prevention tools can make a huge difference.

How Technology Helps with Proactive Fire Defense

The escalating risk of fire puts pressure on fire departments to do more with less. With limited resources, dependence on manual procedures, and outdated technology, even prevention efforts can seem resource intensive. However, the rise of technology within the field of fire defense has initiated a notable change in this situation.

Completing More Fire Inspections with Fewer Resources

Traditional fire inspection methods, while effective, have their limitations. They can be time-consuming, resource-intensive, and prone to human error.  

However, modern technology has updated the entire process. For instance, the mobile inspection app on 3Di Engage enables fire officials to manage everything from the field, including code look-up, inspections, viewing property and case history, and issuing citations, even in areas with poor or no connectivity.

With field and back-office tools like these, fire departments can make inspections much easier, maximizing their prevention impact with faster timelines and reduced costs. Inspectors can more easily track safety violations in bulk and see at a glance any outstanding violations a property owner may have.

Better Community Engagement and Education

Effective communication is a cornerstone of proactive fire defense. Technology has significantly improved the way fire departments communicate with the public and among themselves.

Strong community outreach tools empower communities to make service requests, find information, and get educated about risk reduction and community updates through intuitive online portals, available on both mobile and web. 

Fire agencies using 3Di Engage for Fire can host an online portal, providing an easy-to-use platform for citizens and businesses to file complaints, request permits, receive notifications, make payments, and access important fire safety information

These online hubs help get the community more engaged in prevention efforts. For instance, digital permitting tools simplify the process of requesting and paying for permits, through the online portal, making it easy for the public to comply with fire safety regulations.

The portals also allow citizens to report potential fire hazards in their communities, which can be addressed promptly by the fire department. Education plays a crucial role in fire preparedness here too, with the portal enabling fire agencies to give updates, educational resources, and risk reduction strategies to the community.

Not to mention, in the event of a wildfire, an online citizen portal can be used to quickly disseminate information about evacuation routes, temporary shelters, and fire progression. 

Allocate Resources More Effectively with Reporting & Analytics Tools

Reporting and analytics capabilities offer a real-time view of prevention activities, trends, and important insights, which can inform policy decisions and public education initiatives.

For instance, analyzing data from previous inspections can highlight recurring safety violations, vulnerable populations, or fire-prone areas, enabling fire departments to prioritize their prevention efforts accordingly.

Furthermore, analytics can track the success of public education initiatives, facilitating necessary adjustments to maximize community engagement and understanding of fire safety measures.

Proactive Steps for Safer Communities

The integration of technology in proactive fire defense has proven to be a game-changer, making fire defense more efficient, effective, and community-centric. A prime example of this is the collaboration between 3Di and the State of Ohio Fire Marshal (SFM) to launch an annual inspections module for fire prevention efforts. 

This solution simplified scheduling, streamlined payment processing, and eliminated cumbersome processes, demonstrating the transformative power of technology in enhancing fire defense — and setting a promising precedent for future advancements. Get the full story in our case study  on the partnership.