The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City Fire Department looks to improve service call time with app

The partnership hopes to increase efficiency for EMS during emergencies by allowing residents to provide information about their homes or businesses.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa City firefighters load a hose into a truck during a fire at the Advanced Technology Lab on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023. The first Hawk Alert went out at 10:54 a.m., urging people to avoid the area. At 11:28 p.m., a second Hawk Alert told people to resume normal activity, as the situation was “stable.” This was the second day in a row that a fire was reported at the Advanced Technology Lab.

A new partnership with the Iowa City Fire Department will allow first responders to be more informed of specific circumstances at residences and businesses in the event of an emergency.

The city announced a new partnership last week with an app called Community Connect.

The service costs $5,550 for the city to implement.

Iowa City is among other communities across the U.S. that have announced partnerships with the app, including departments in Spokane Valley, Washington, and Reno, Nevada.

Residents and business owners are asked to register for the app, which can be found on the Iowa City government site or by searching Iowa City Community Connect on Google.

Users can list their phone number in connection with their address as well as what the user thinks may be important for first responders to know.

According to the city’s release, ICFD plans to be at multiple community events throughout the year to help residents register for the service.

The fire department hopes that using this app can increase first responders’ efficiency when responding to calls or emergencies, according to the city’s release.

Iowa City Fire Department Lt. Christian Penick said the city started using the software to keep records, write reports, and more. That software was developed by a company called First Due, which also developed the Community Connect software.

Penick said the registrations in the first week were low, which was expected. He hopes to spread the word and for more people to register with the service.

The app would allow first responders to be aware of hazards like volatile chemicals on business properties or information like garage codes, but only if property owners willingly submit this information. The app keeps a profile for each user.

First responders’ possession of this information is beneficial to handling emergencies faster and safer, Penick said.

Penick said the service is an internal network and is encrypted. He also said there is no quantity requirement for information but hopes to see more people register to include information.

“You can be as detailed as you want. You can include just a phone number,” Penick said.

Ron Kanter, head of marketing at First Due, said Community Connect began when they realized there is information first responders could never know about a structure ahead of time and that a service like the one they created could help facilitate that.

“The more they know, the better the result is. How can I collect the most life-saving information and make it the most consumable at the time of response,” Kanter said.

Kanter said the service uses bank-level encryption to secure the information provided to Community Connect. Fire departments and other city organizations use similar services already, as Penick stated they have used First Due software for around a year now.

“If you’re comfortable logging into an online bank, you should be comfortable logging into Community Connect,” Kanter said.

RELATED: Iowa City police seeks new officers in hopes to reach full staffing levels

Currently, Iowa City is the only local community to employ Community Connect to help with emergency management, Kanter said.

Chief Orey Schwitzer of the Coralville Fire Department wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that they do not yet offer a service like Community Connect to Coralville residents.

“We have started to gather information from the business community that we can access during an emergency at their location,” Schwitzer wrote.

Schwitzer stated the program could potentially be of interest to the Coralville Fire Department after conducting future research.

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About the Contributor
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.