“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.”
-Jeff Houghtalen, Chief of West Sayville Fire Department
About West Sayville-Oakdale Fire District
Since 1891, the West Sayville-Oakdale Fire District has proudly served the communities of West Sayville and Oakdale on Long Island, New York. The department is 100 percent volunteer, with 115 current members. Their service is integral to the community, providing lifesaving emergency response and fire prevention courses to Suffolk County residents.
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 technologies. 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.”
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 Flip interactive whiteboard. 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.
Because the interactive whiteboard is on a rolling cart, it can be wheeled into different meeting rooms, including the executive conference room. 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. The large lobby area had two beautifully built showcases bearing the indicia of fire district. Samsung’s wide array of products enabled us to retrofit two side-by-side QM55R-A ultra high-definition (UHD) intelligent displays in each cabinet, in a way that makes each display presentation like a custom fit.
“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.
“Because of the pride-filled nature of the project and our own sense of community”, remarked LDI Connect senior vice president Brian Gertler, “we used our LDI Connect graphic design team to assist with the heroes’ biographies — complete with the representative purple bunting, graphic visuals of kneeling firemen, and the military symbols for those who had served.”
The apparatus rooms, also referred to as the truck rooms at the main firehouse and the substation now feature 65-inch Commercial Grade 4K displays — which showcase mandatory compliance notices, human resource documents, OSHA information, as well as workplace updates. Because of the tighter space restrictions, smaller QM-R displays replicate this critical information in the station’s dispatch areas.
Finally, the department updated their executive conference room with a Samsung 65-inch UHD Flip 2 interactive whiteboard with the add-on tray for increased connectivity options. Powered by a micro-form factor computer behind the screen and combination collaboration bar containing a pan|zoom|tilt camera and beaming microphone array, the interactive conferencing solutions enables board members and district executives to hold collaborative meetings with 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 or can be parsed out to multiple individuals for very specific assigned tasks.
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.
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.
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 the West Sayville-Oakdale Fire District has accomplished.”