Data-sharing tool gives firefighters the advantage

  • Fri Jan 6th, 2012 9:23pm
  • News

By Rikki King Herald Writer

MONROE — Firefighters in east Snohomish County soon will have a digital advantage over the unseen dangers that can lurk inside burning buildings.

With the help of a federal grant, they are setting up a mobile system full of information about businesses, churches, schools and other structures.

The goal of the project is to reduce fire-related deaths, injuries and property damage, Monroe Fire Marshal Mike Fitzgerald said.

The system shares data between six fire districts in east and southeast county who often work together on emergency calls, Fitzgerald said.

For example, crews from Index who go to fight a fire in Gold Bar might not know which buildings there have underground storage tanks or fire-suppression sprinklers.

While one firefighter drives to the scene, another will be able to look up information about the building with an onboard computer, said Elsa Sexton, the geographic information systems specialist at Snohomish County Fire District 3 in Monroe.

“This can tell firefighters what the construction of the building is, how it was framed, how the roof and floor are built, those sorts of things,” she said.

About 80 percent of the $122,552 project is being paid for with a grant from the Department of Homeland Security. About one-fifth of the money is coming from matching funds split among the participating fire districts.

The project is called “pre-incident planning” because it collects information needed in emergencies before emergencies can happen, Fitzgerald said.

It also will help firefighters when they respond to a scene where no one is available to give them information, such as a business owner, he said. More than 5,000 buildings could be eligible for the system.

The system will not contain information about people’s houses.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.