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Fire Dept. spends $165K on smart tech

A new piece of Evidence Based Predictive Modelling computer software will help the Kelowna Fire Department to evaluate existing day-to-day operations and determine the best use of staff deployment.

The software, with a budgeted cost of $165,000 (cost to come from fire department reserves), was tentatively approved by council during last month's budget process pending a cost justification.

Deputy fire chief, Jason Brolund, says the software program is presently being used by some of the larger fire departments in North America including New York, San Diego, Anaheim, Toronto and Edmonton as well as progressive BC departments in Abbotsford, Nanaimo, Langley, Surrey, North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District and West Vancouver.

"This software serves many purposes. It can be used to present information to justify a fire department that needs to get bigger," says Brolund.

"It can also be used to make tough choices if a fire department is too big and needs to get smaller. That's the beauty of it - it's based purely on mathematical science and our historical information."

Brolund says the software can be used to support initiatives such as construction and staffing of new fire halls and exactly where a new hall should be constructed - or whether it is even necessary.

He says the software can also model things such as traffic signal prevention.

"If we did more work to get through intersections faster, how would that change our ability to meet response targets council has set."

Brolund says the system will make recommendation concerning deployment of resources for a specific emergency, however, he says it will not create a world where the computer dictates how the department will do its job.

"When an officer (in the field) makes a call and asks for more apparatus or changes the configuration of our deployment in the city we need to trust that and give him what he needs to do his job," says Brolund.

Councillor Robert Hobson agreed the system will be a useful tool and a benefit to the city in the future.

He asked about its ability to determine the future necessity of a new fire hall contemplated for the KLO area.

"We are looking forward to this software being able to answer the question objectively. Is a fire hall required in that KLO corridor based on council's response targets and, if it is, what is the best place for it," says Brolund.

"There is a very real chance this software will tell us our fire halls are all in the right spot and everything is great but there is also a very real chance this software will tell us we have coverage that doesn't meet council's response targets in a particular area of the city. KLO could be the best example of that."

Council gave the fire department the go-ahead to purchase and implement the software system.

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