Kansas City, MO Water Services and KCFD use tablets to improve fire protection

ARTICLE | Oct 18, 2012

Mapping application saves time, money & creates safer city infrastructure

The Water Services Department (WSD) and the Kansas City Fire Department (KCFD) recently concluded a collaborative electronic pilot program to dramatically improve the annual process of inspecting and maintaining Kansas City’s 23,000 fire hydrants. Utilizing an iPad and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, WSD and KCFD worked together to overhaul a previously time-consuming, paper-driven process. Once fully-implemented in 2013, the new electronic process will save time and money, improve inspection accuracy, dramatically reduce paper use, result in quicker fire hydrant repairs, and create a safer City infrastructure.

“I’m proud of the impressive collaboration taking place between Water Services and KCFD to create inter-departmental efficiencies, save taxpayer dollars, and, most importantly, to create a safer Kansas City,” said Terry Leeds, Water Services Director. “I’m confident this pilot program will become a model for other cities.”

“Working together, KCFD and Water Services have successfully taken a labor-intensive, paper-driven, 20th century process and turned it into an efficient, technology-driven, 21st century process,” said Paul Berardi, KCFD Interim Fire Chief. “This improved process and new technology will provide real-time data which will greatly aid our crews when responding to future emergencies.”

WSD and KCFD anticipate that the electronic inspection process, once fully-implemented in 2013, will reduce the amount of time required to complete the process by 50 percent, and result in an estimated annual cost savings of approximately $20,000, which includes approximately 500 employee hours, through: the elimination of the printing and binding of 23,000 paper inspection forms; the hours spent distributing inspection books; the time crews spent following sometimes non-circuitous inspection routes; the hours spent doing data-entry; the hours spent double-checking the accuracy of the manually filled-out paper forms and following up with questions regarding how the forms were filled out; and the time spent putting 23,000 paper inspection forms into storage.

Previously, through the annual fire hydrant inspection process that takes place each summer, KCFD crews would first open and test the water flow on each of Kansas City’s 23,000 hydrants. Second, the crews would report maintenance issues through a cumbersome paper process, manually filling out 23,000 separate forms that had been printed for each fire hydrant across the City. Third, KCFD would manually enter the inspection information contained on the paper forms into a computer, and, finally, the data would be sent to WSD where work orders would be generated for fire hydrants in need of repair. This was a process that required considerable time, great quantities of paper, and could take three to five months to complete.

Through the recently concluded pilot program, ArcGIS software was installed on a hand-held iPad. ArcGIS, developed by Redlands, California-based Esri, is a complete system for designing and managing solutions through the application of geographic knowledge. Users can take advantage of mapping and geo-analysis for solving all types of problems. Working together, WSD and KCFD utilized ArcGIS to incorporate the previously-printed fire hydrant inspection form into the application. KCFD then dispatched an inspection crew to test the new electronic technology. Utilizing the iPad, the KCFD inspection crew was able to quickly locate fire hydrants, efficiently perform a fire hydrant inspection, and, with a simple press of the “send” button, instantly transmit and accurately submit the inspection data to WSD. The use of the iPad also enabled KCFD to take photographs out in the field, documenting specific fire hydrant repair needs, and then attach and send the photographs, along with the electronic inspection form, to WSD for repair. 

Beginning with the 2013 fire hydrant inspection process, each of KCFD’s 50 trucks will utilize the new electronic inspection system. A final decision regarding the exact type of electronic tablet (an iPad or an Android device) that will ultimately host ArcGIS software has not been made. In addition, KCFD anticipates being able to integrate the electronic data with its Dispatch Unit so crews will have immediate access to fire hydrant inspection data while in route to an emergency.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Kincaid, with WSD Communications, at jennifer.kincaid@kcmo.org or 816-513-0284.

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