As a volunteer department that covers a large geographic area, we needed a solution to help us locate our first responders while protecting their privacy. Having a system that anonymously collects location information and then gives us the ability to connect with our responders both increases our situational awareness and more importantly, helps us get people on scene as quickly as possible.

Boone County Fire Protection District Fire Chief Scott Olsen

Firefighter app


The Organization

Boone County Fire Protection District is the largest volunteer fire department in the State of Missouri, operating 14 fire stations within a 500 square mile area in the Columbia, MO, vicinity. The volunteer force of over 250 firefighters and EMTs responds to over 4,000 calls annually, including fires, medical emergencies, wildfires, vehicle collisions and other emergencies. The Fire District has also been designated by FEMA as one of only 28 Federal Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces in the nation. As a federal resource, Missouri Task Force 1 is on call for federal disaster response and, upon activation, must be on military aircraft within six hours with 70 personnel, four search canines and 100,000 lbs. of equipment.


The Situation

Boone County’s volunteer firefighters come from all walks of life. They are farmers, professors, physicians, insurance agents, secretaries, law enforcement officers, university students, housewives, contractors, salesmen, business owners, mechanics, ministers and computer programmers. They share a common desire – to make a contribution to their community, often at great personal risk and sacrifice to ensure that the community is kept safe.




The Challenge

As a volunteer department that covers a large geographic area, Boone County needed a solution to help locate and dispatch its first responders while protecting their privacy. From an operational perspective, the department wanted a way to increase its situational awareness in terms of knowing where its firefighters/EMTs were, as well as an effective way to communicate with them in order to keep response times to a minimum.

The Solution: Firefighter App and Record

Emergency Response Times

NowForce worked with the Boone County team to provide its volunteers with the NowForce Mobile Responder firefighter app, which works in conjunction with the NowForce Dispatcher, a web-based dispatching portal that interfaces with the Columbia Public Safety Joint Communications Center’s computer aided dispatch software. Now, when a call comes in to 911, the system automatically detects if there are responders nearby, and then dispatches those who are closest to the incident. The system features enhanced privacy settings, through which the command center can “see” all potential responders on a map, however each is shown as “anonymous” until he/she has accepted an incident. Since Boone County launched the NowForce system, there have been numerous incidents in which its volunteer firefighters or EMTs have arrived on-scene in a matter of minutes. A few examples of record emergency response times from the last month include a medical emergency in which fire/rescue volunteers arrived in 2 minutes and 56 seconds, and a vehicle collision in which the volunteers arrived in 4 minutes and 42 seconds. “Reducing response times to incidents can often mean the difference between life and death,” said Chief Olsen. Currently the NowForce mobile responder application is being used by a core group of BCFPD users, with a plan to expand the program to the entire 250-person force.

The Benefits

  • Immediate reporting of incidents; quick response with optimal team
  • Protects volunteer firefighters/EMTs privacy while enabling them to remain available for emergencies
  • Enhances and expands communications between volunteers and department
  • Reduces lag time for regular and task force deployments
  • Intuitive, easy-to-set-up
  • Easy evaluation and analysis of   incidents, post-event

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