A COMPUTER NETWORK FOR THE FIRE SERVICE
Ordinary telephone lines and a modem allow your computer to communicate with other computers, forming an electronic network.
Many times, today’s fire protection administrator finds himself faced with situations or problems for which he may not have an available source of information. Individual libraries, association meetings and magazines supplement his knowledge base but may not provide an up-to-date resource in every case. In addition, the methods of sharing ideas or asking questions on a broad geographical base are limited.
The application of computer communications technology offers a solution to many of these concerns and provides a new informational and communications tool for the fire administrator.
FIRENET is such a computer service, offered as part of a computer network available through CompuServe Inc. CompuServe, through its Computer Information Service, offers a wide variety of subjects and services for the general computer user, such as the ability to read far-off newspapers, review stocks and shop for products.
As part of the network, CompuServe offers a special service known as a SIG (special interest group). With this service it is possible to form an electronic association of individuals with specific interests. CompuServe Information Service has many SICs today ranging from specific computer hardware or softwear to health and aviation interests.
To this will be added a user group for fire protection professionals known as FIRENET. Its purpose is as follows:
- To increase the effectiveness of the fire protection professional by using state-of-the-art computer techniques.
- To provide a mechanism for the sharing of software, informational data bases and computer technology,
FIRENET is part of the CompuServe Network and contains a number of areas of interest. One of the primary functions is the exchange of information from one user to other users by leaving public messages for all to see and comment on. This allows individuals, organizations or corporations to use the network in obtaining information, or help on subjects of their choosing.
For example, if you are interested in a particular fire protection product and would like to know of any experience other members may have with it, FIRENET allows you to post a message asking others to share with you experiences they have had.
Or, if you are developing a training program for a new industrial process in your jurisdiction and are interested in what others with similar problems may have developed or have had experience with, FIRENET allows you to place this question on the network for comments.
If you are developing a fire protection computer program and need some help in completing it, FIRENET allows you to solicit help from other members with similar backgrounds in both fire protection and computer hardware.
And if you or your department needs to collect statistics on a particular type of fire occurrence, you can ask for information and members can respond by the electronic mail option. You can receive current information rapidly and efficiently.
These are just a few of the many uses of the public bulletin board section.
Attend a conference at home
Another function is conferencing. This is a live interaction (as opposed to the message switching above). Through conferencing, members have the ability to discuss a topic live regardless of where in the world the other members may be at the moment.
Based upon the member’s request, FIRENET will schedule live lectures or a discussion on specific subjects. Once the date and time are agreed upon, all interested users can enter the conference feature.
With this service it is possible to form an electronic association of individuals with specific interests— such as fire protection.
FIRENET improves the sharing of information through computer telecommunications. If a source for any needed information is known, a simple telephone works just as well. But if you want to ask an unknown source in a wide “audience” to provide specific information, electronic mail has many advantages. A sample exchange on FIRENET Is shown below.
If no conferences are scheduled, members can use this section for any real-time interaction.
The remaining areas are devoted to databases. Two of these will be the user interest database and the special interest group (SIC) access database.
The user interest database contains information on the members’ particular interests and needs. For example, you may wish to share information on Apple computers, hazardous materials, or arson investigations. Another user may be interested in sprinkler systems, halon systems and TRS-80 computers. Each member can list his interests here and, by a search rou-
tine, users find members with similar interests.
In the special interest group access database, each user can store and share computer programs and text files.
Other sections will be offered as the SIG grows, including newsletters, specific databases for use in engineering, design, management, research and reference.
All individuals and organizations with an interest in fire and safety fields are encouraged to join. There is no fee for individuals to join. Organizations may be required to pay a fee. In addition, some special interest databases such as copyrighted newsletters may be added to the SIG and a fee charged for access to them. Present CompuServe rates are $5 per connect hour 6 p.m. to 5 a m. local time and $22.50 per hour prime time 8 a m. to 6 p.m.
Individual members are likely to be those involved in occupations relating to the protection of life and property from fire, including fire service personnel (volunteer and full-time), EMS and rescue personnel, fire protection engineers, fire protection educators (including students), insurance employees, and building and code officials.
Organization members are those organizations that provide products or services relating to the protection of life and property from fire, including fire testing and research laboratories, federal, state, or local governments, manufacturers, consultants and associations with fire protection interests.
FIRENET is available through the CompuServe computer network. You can obtain details on how to join the CompuServe at your local Radio Shack, or if you are already a member of the CompuServe network, membership can be extended on-line. Each member will be asked to provide name and address, fire protection occupations, organization, and areas of interest.
Some suggested interest topics are arson investigation, training, aircraft crash-rescue, hazardous materials, industrial fire protection, building codes, and sprinkler design.
FIRENET is managed by: Bob Tidmore, c/o Marmen Computing, 125 6th Avenue, Menominee, Mich. 49858, (906) 8632611-70001.1103.
FIRENET offers an exciting possibility for communications and sharing of concepts among the fire protection community. We plan on offering a wide assortment of services and informational data bases to assist you in your profession, o O