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Edgewood-Colesburg seniors play key role in upgrading fire department’s equipment system

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 5:36 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Edgewood Fire Department, also known as the “Good Guys in the White Trucks,” are now operating more efficiently thanks to some critical upgrades to equipment, including new laptops, an upgraded dispatch system, and new iPads in all of their fire trucks.

The new integrated equipment system was made possible with help from high schoolers.

“It’s crazy how much help is out there,” Payson Kerns, the department’s secretary, said.

For an upgrade, the department turned to a pair of high school seniors, who started the project as part of an independent work-study program.

“It was like, who would think that they would want us to come and help them with something that big of scale for them?” Keegan Hansel, a senior at Edgewood-Colesburg, said.

Keegan Hansel and Harrison Underwood put their skills together, starting with equipping the department with a new eDispatches system. This sends calls right to the firefighters’ cell phones.

“When firefighters actually get a call they go on the app and have three different responses. It says station, scene and unable,” Underwood said, explaining the new system.

The system on the laptop is connected to their new 65-inch flat-screen monitor in the fire station, as well as the iPads in their trucks.

“It shows who is responding to the station who is available for a call,” Hansel said.

The system also includes a route mapping feature, which Payson Kern said is critical when responding to these life-threatening situations.

“We get an address and we try memorizing how the county’s grids are set up and where every house is, but ultimately we don’t know the best route or where some of these addresses are so each truck will take us right to the scene,” Kern said.

The system upgrade also includes a new truck inventory check, that uses Google Docs forms.

“When we come back from a scene or do a monthly inventory, you can go through the compartments and be like, ok we’re missing this tool or have this excess tool,” Johnny Walz, another firefighter, said. “We can figure out what truck it goes to, because when you leave a scene you make sure you have everything and just go.”

They have been using the new system for a week and, already see the benefits.

“It was cool being taught by the younger generation,” Kerns said.

As big a benefit it is to the department, Hansel and Underwood have also taken a lot away as they move into their own career paths.

“I’ve learned a lot from the project, and my communication with other people to get everything working because there was a lot of that with the research,” Underwood said.

“I have taken away that you should trust a lot of your sources that you have around you, and that it might be a scary experience at first but in the end, it’s gonna work out,” Hansel said.

Underwood is planning to go into computer science and Hansel wants to get his business degree, but helping the people in their hometown is the biggest takeaway.

“I’m hoping that the fire department is able to run more efficiently after this,” Underwood said.

“I think the firefighters really learned that their small community and everyone is willing to help them out as much as they help us,” Hansel said.

The two graduate this month.

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