About five years ago, the Terrell, Texas Fire Department decided to finally face an outdated practice they had long outgrown. “We were keeping our calendar on paper,” says city Emergency Management Coordinator Dustin Conner. Transitioning to scheduling software not only solved that issue, but led them toward adopting a dashboard display system with unforeseen benefits.

The department, with two stations and an administration office, is located just outside Dallas, Texas. Their 30 paid members serve a population of about 18,000, running about 3,500 calls per year. The city council is considering implementing a third fire station, Conner says, to keep up with fast population growth and development. “We need to be a little bit bigger and we’re working on that,” he says.

The department previously kept a calendar at Station 2. If you wanted time off, you had to call Station 2, ask someone to check the schedule, have them pencil in your name, and repeat for any changes. “We were really struggling to manage people’s time,” Conner says.

They later heard of First Arriving through a recommendation from Emergency Reporting. “Our sales guy was like, ‘Hey, you should look into these guys,’” Conner says—but he didn’t. Terrell had been using CrewSense dashboards, which were transitioned to First Arriving two years ago.

Terrell Fire Department has enjoyed the trade. With First Arriving’s additional features and integrations, the department has achieved improved situational awareness.

“One of our favorite features of First Arriving, is when a call comes in, it pops up on the screen, and our guys can see the street level view of where they’re going before they even leave the station,” Conner says. “And that’s an awesome tool. That situational awareness when you’re pulling up, of what that house is going to look like before you even get there, is something that is just… unbeatable.”

That feature is provided through the Google Street View integration. “That’s one of our bigger features of First Arriving, and they’re hard to choose from because there are a lot of things about First Arriving that we like,” Conner says.

Another dashboard feature new to them through First Arriving is the Google Slides integration, which allows them to easily feature photos, birthdays and other special announcements for the department and its members. “It gives it more of a personal feel, and makes everyone feel more involved,” Conner says. It’s also easy. “I can do it in a couple of clicks and it’s just there.”

They also display current weather, forecasts, and alerts, as well as Twitter feeds for local news media.

The department has dashboards set up at both stations and at fire administration, and will at any future stations. And each board is set up a little bit differently, Conner notes. At admin, it includes work orders open on apparatus and a turnout timer for the department.

At the stations, the dashboards are more specific to each location. For example, they show turnout timers between the shifts, who’s riding what apparatus that day, and what hydrants or vehicles are out of service.

When making their decision to go with First Arriving following the CrewSense transition, the department consider other options during its due diligence.

“There just wasn’t anything as powerful as you guys,” Conner says. “There wasn’t anything that was as feature-rich.”

One of those important features, Conner says, has been First Arriving’s customer service. He appreciates being able to request changes and to see them implemented quickly. “The staff at First Arriving has been great,” he says. “They’ve been super helpful, even with the little nitpicky things I’ve asked for. They just do it, and within hours it’s updated on the board, and we really love that.”

Conner also appreciates that the system setup was simple. The department already had its TV screens in place, and just needed to connect their new Chromeboxes to them with HDMI cables. “It was easy enough that I didn’t even go and do it at the stations,” Conner says. “I sent them with the battalion chiefs and told them – plug this in, and plug this in, and press the power button, and it just came on.”

That boot-up simplicity was one of their selling points at First Arriving, Conner notes. With their previous dashboard system, they had to log in to start it up, and to restart it every time the power went out or it lost connectivity. “Well–you’d have to find a keyboard and a mouse, crawl up behind the TV and plug them in, and hope that who’s there remembers what the log-in is, which never happened. It was just difficult,” he says.

That was something that First Arriving was able to solve. “We wanted, that if the power goes out and then comes back on, this thing will boot right up, and that’s what it does.”

After just one week of getting the system into place and optimized for each location, department members are now enjoying the features, Conner says. “Everybody’s happy.”

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