The Challenge

Manually updating static signage was an arduous, time-intensive task for West Sayville Fire Department. Throughout the fire station, bulletin boards, letter boards and projectors were functional for basic communication and collaboration between firefighters, but inefficient and not particularly effective.

The Solution

Over the last couple of years, the volunteer fire department replaced their outdated static signage with Samsung digital displays, managed through the built-in MagicINFO content management system (CMS). Among the new installations, interactive whiteboards facilitate collaboration in the training area and executive conference room, while a dynamic lobby display honors fallen firefighters.

The Results

Digital solutions have streamlined the department’s operations and improved productivity among members. These modern, interactive displays throughout the main station and its substation serve as a model for other fire departments.

The Challenge: Static technology inhibits flexibility and collaboration

With a mission to serve and protect their communities, fire departments across the U.S. allocate much of their budget to state-of-the-art firetrucks and lifesaving technology. But for most fire departments, technology innovation stops there; manual processes, file cabinets and aging computers are the norm.

West Sayville Fire Department stands out. The volunteer fire department, which covers part of Suffolk County, New York, is well known as a tight, effective operation. What’s lesser known is how technology-forward it has recently become.

In the past, training sessions and meetings in the executive conference room required attendees to gather around a projector, a dry-erase board or a small, old-school wired monitor. Everyone needed to be physically present, which isn’t always practical, and the wired, static display setups were inflexible. Both Chief Jeff Houghtalen and district treasurer Jim McNamara wanted a more flexible setup that could accommodate remote participants.

The department’s dispatch and apparatus rooms were also ripe for change, at both the main firehouse and the substation 3 miles away. In the apparatus rooms, informational bulletin boards required an administrator to climb a ladder to pin up new information by hand — and then drive to the substation down the road to do the same thing.

But the most important goal for everyone at the firehouse was finding a more fitting way to honor their fallen heroes. The station had a memorial board, but it was a static board that used stick-on letters to list 260 names.

“We didn’t have a way for people to learn about them, other than a brief description,” McNamara says. “We wanted to tell their stories and really honor them.”

The Solution: Cutting-edge technology propels the department forward

With the help of LDI Connect — a Samsung partner and digital office solution expert — the department replaced aging technology in their training room with a 55-inch Samsung interactive whiteboard on a rolling cart. Connected to a PC stick, the interactive whiteboard provides trainers with easy access to department software and other digital training material. Added webcams also allow trainees to participate remotely.

Since the interactive whiteboard is on a rolling cart, the department can wheel the board into different meeting rooms and host both in-person and virtual meetings. This functionality was especially useful when firefighters weren’t all coming into the station in 2020 and 2021.

“We couldn’t have our monthly department meeting because people couldn’t get here, but this allowed us to reinstate them,” McNamara says. The department plans to continue using the displays to allow for remote participation in both trainings and meetings.

Next up was the project that had prompted everybody to consider modernizing their displays — a fitting memorial board for fallen heroes. Because the board would be located in the large department lobby, they chose to install two QMR ultra high-definition (UHD) intelligent displays mounted side by side on the wall.

“We wanted a way to respect, honor and remember our fallen fire heroes and provide resources to assist their families with this fitting digital tribute,” Houghtalen says.

As the project took on a life of its own, LDI senior vice president Brian Gertler helped build out heroes’ biographies — complete with military symbols for those who had served — and visuals of kneeling firemen.

In adding the memorial boards to the lobby, the room itself began to take shape. A second set of side-by-side screens, fitted perfectly into a wall-mounted cabinet, displays the department leadership and other important information for members.

The apparatus rooms at the main firehouse and the substation now feature 65-inch 4K displays — which showcase mandatory notices from human resources and the government, as well as workplace updates and OSHA information. Dispatch now uses UHD display to replicate these announcements in the station’s apparatus rooms.

Finally, the department updated their executive conference room with a 65-inch interactive whiteboard. Connected to a microphone, cameras and add-on tray for increased connectivity options, the interactive whiteboard allows members to hold collaborative meetings with in-person and remote participants and communicate more efficiently with other fire districts, government officials and the community at large. Meeting presenters can connect to the interactive whiteboard wirelessly or via HDMI cable, for easy content-sharing.

As for creating content and posting it on all these various displays, the department uses MagicINFO, Samsung’s built-in content and device management solution. From new workplace documents to leadership announcements, content can be updated in minutes across the entire network from one centralized location.

“We wanted a way to respect, honor and remember our fallen fire heroes and provide resources to assist their families with this fitting digital tribute.”

– Chief of Department Jeff Houghtalen, West Sayville Fire Department 

The Technology

Samsung Interactive Pro 75″

Connect and collaborate with the Samsung Interactive Pro. Versatile connectivity options, including USB-C, USB, HDMI, and a DP and OPS slot, make it effortless to connect to various devices and share ideas with teammates. The interactive whiteboard also supports simple, seamless video conferencing.

4K UHD Display

Samsung’s QMR series displays cut through the clutter to deliver best-in-class UHD resolution as well as intelligent UHD upscaling and rich flawless colors with Dynamic Crystal Color, all in a slim design. The non-glare display provides better visibility from all angles, any time of day.

The Results: Smoother operations and honoring the fallen

Since the displays have been installed, department administrators and leaders have noticed that meetings are now more collaborative, training is more effective and productivity is up.

For example, training has become more interactive. Trainers can use displays to post a quick survey form for trainees to respond to, leading to better engagement and more productive discussions. In the executive conference room, collaboration is no longer inhibited by wires. Budgets and other important information can be displayed on a large screen for greater visibility.

In the lobby, digital displays are much more efficient than manual letter boards, which were often frustrating. “Anyone who has had the task of putting small letters on a bulletin board will recognize that the process is painstaking and letters are in short supply,” says Gertler. Making these updates digitally is significantly easier and less time-consuming.

MagicINFO also allows display content to be scheduled, so administrators can set documents to be displayed in specific rooms for a specific amount of time. This allows the displays to run in a continuous loop, without human intervention.

But it’s the memorial to fallen heroes that the department is most proud of. The dynamic memorial shares personal information about each hero, telling more of a story than a board full of names.

“The fallen firefighters lived in this district, and their families come here still,” McNamara says. “So it’s nice for them to see the name of their grandfather on the board with a story about them. It means a lot to them.”

The new displays have made a big difference, but the department doesn’t intend to stop innovating. Next up is additional staff training on the interactive potential of how they can use the displays. The department is also considering an outdoor LED display for greater visual communication.

But for now, the department is already being viewed as a trailblazer in the firefighting community.

“We have been at administrator and commissioner meetings at every fire district in Long Island,” Gertler says, “and they are all looking to replicate what West Sayville has done.”

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Karen D. Schwartz

Karen Schwartz has more than 20 years of experience writing about technology and business issues across the spectrum, including government, small business, education and channel. Schwartz has written about everything from telecommunications to outsourcing for industry-leading publications like CIO, InformationWeek, eWeek, Government Executive and PC Magazine, in addition to dozens of ghostwritten white papers, articles and case studies for companies like Microsoft Corp., Comcast, Dell, Unisys Corp. and CDW.

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