Media, Communications, and Information Technology
The dynamic world of communication and the extensive flow of information are growing and moving rapidly before our eyes. The IAFF has been committed to staying on the forefront of these changes and challenges.
Over the past two years, we have expanded our communications operations, offering members more opportunities to get information and news and changing the tools we use to get the word out using less of the old-style publications and more of the at-your-fingertips information.
Nothing exemplifies this more than the creation of E-18 Media in October 2013 and the IAFF Frontline App being released this week at Convention.
E-18 Media is our new full-service, in-house video, audio and broadcast production company and studio. Wholly owned by the IAFF Financial Corporation (IAFF-FC), E-18 opens the door for the IAFF to significantly increase the communication products and services we can provide and offers expanded multi-media tools to deliver information to our members and the communities you serve.
E-18 gives our affiliates another valuable asset to help enlarge your communications efforts, whether it’s internal messaging, public relations, political campaigns or community outreach.
Like much of the world, the majority of our members are fastened to their smartphones and mobile devices, and we need to take advantage of the power of E-18 to inform, educate and engage our constituents.
The new IAFF app will become the one-stop shop for everything IAFF so our members have what they need at their fingers tips anytime and anyplace there is an Internet connection. The app also provides locals the opportunity to customize the International’s content with local news, events and information.
As part of the app launch, we redesigned our web site to provide an easier user experience. Our site has always been a vast clearinghouse of valuable information, and the new refinements will make finding that content simple and intuitive.
The ongoing attacks on fire fighters and public employees have put a spotlight on the need for our locals to enhance their own external communication programs. Today, more than ever, we need to tell our story and showcase our value in the communities we serve.
In order to help develop affiliates’ communications capabilities, we have developed a series of new training programs rolled out at the Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS) Partnership Education Program (PEP) trainings, as well as a series of evergreen pro-active news stories that can be used in communities nationwide to enhance our brand.
For example, we provided monthly community outreach campaigns to promote public safety – such as fireworks safety in July, Halloween safety in the fall, holiday safety in December and tornado safety in the spring. These ready to plug-in materials include press releases, info graphics, suggested tweets and – in some cases – video.
In May, we developed a Memorial Day public service announcement (PSA) honoring our fallen military soldiers, with a closing message that could also be customized for individual affiliates to use.
These and other resources – including sample social media policies and other basic Public Relations 101 materials are available in a toolkit for affiliate leaders on our web site.
All of these products are designed to help affiliates effectively develop community outreach campaigns and cultivate relationships with city leaders, local businesses, the media, civic groups and the public.
The Communications and Media department operates under the supervision of Jeff Zack, my Assistant for Communications, Media and Information Technology. His dual role is a necessary collaboration given the interdependent relationship between communications and technology.
The Communications and Media Department operation includes Director of Communications Jane Blume and Director of Strategic Campaigns and Media Relations Mark Treglio (who joined us in March 2014 and comes from Jacksonville Local 122 and the Jacksonville Fire Department).
An excellent writer, social media expert, press secretary, graphic designer and executive secretary staff the Department. Our team works tirelessly to keep our members informed and promote our brand. They have combined traditional and new media to reach members, build relationships with reporters, bloggers, and other labor organizations, fire service organizations and elected leaders at all levels of government.
On a daily basis, the Communications Department continues to be a hub of activity producing the Frontline News Brief and Leader e-newsletter, providing content for the Frontline Blog and managing the IAFF web site and micro sites.
The Department manages all the IAFF social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr), prepares and distributes email messages, writes press releases, develops media relationships, assists affiliates in their public relations and strategic campaigns and provides marketing and production support for all the union’s divisions.
We changed the frequency of our magazine from six to five issues in 2013, and from five to four in 2014, so it now is a quarterly publication with a new name: Fire Fighter Quarterly.
The significant cost savings in production and postage has allowed us to invest our resources and deliver messages more quickly using the more popular mediums, formats and platforms outlined above.
Twitter and Facebook have progressively become more important to our communication efforts in terms of connecting with our members, the public and media on fire fighter and public safety issues. Our Facebook community and Twitter presence have grown significantly in the last two years with more than 100,000 “likes” on Facebook and nearly 20,000 followers on Twitter. Both social media sites have been integral in our internal and external messaging, in building media and political relationships and promoting our members’ work.
Social media has also been very effective for providing real-time coverage of our conferences, such as the annual Legislative Conference. We’ve been able to spread messages about the International and its affiliates and quickly reach a much broader audience, including the media and elected officials. In 2013 and 2014 we used Facebook, Twitter, UStream, YouTube and the IAFF Frontline Blog to report on speakers and events at the Legislative Conference. These efforts also helped engage the members, speakers, politicians and media participating in the Conference in sending important messages about issues of concern to the IAFF and its members. Social media also served as an effective way to thank speakers for their support.
Our newly made-over Fire Fighter Quarterly remains this union’s flagship publication after 96 years and reaches all of our 300,000 members. Our magazine has reported on every major issue facing the IAFF and its members in the last two years, including our fighting back work, legislative issues – such as funding SAFER and FIRE Act grants and reforming portions of the Affordable Care Act that our harmful to our members – coverage of the 2012 and 2013 elections and the IAFF Media Awards Contest. In addition, my trips to affiliate rallies, conventions and events and my firehouse visits across North America are reported in the “On the Road” pages. Current and archived editions are available online on the IAFF web site and include live links to advertisers, multi-media and other online resources.
The IAFF web site also remains a key tool in our communications arsenal, providing timely information and resources to affiliate leaders and members, including training modules, legal information, technical assistance, safety and health resources, political and legislative issues and all the information affiliate leaders need to conduct their IAFF business.
In addition, the Department assists in developing and managing other IAFF web sites, including the Fighting Back web site, IAFF Charitable Foundation web site, Get It Union web site, Breast Cancer Awareness Month web site, and Media Awards and Leadership Awards sites, as well as splash pages for individual projects and campaigns.
We also have maintained a Job Center (www.iaff.org/jobs) for the last three years to advertise openings in fire departments in the United States and Canada, as well as employment opportunities at the IAFF, other unions and municipal, state, provincial and federal agencies.
In January of this year, we launched an online advertising program for the IAFF web site and email newsletters that extends our brand and reach in the fire service to almost 90 percent of North America’s fire fighters and paramedics. Our magazine has accepted advertising since 2008. Advertising opportunities were also made available for the Convention web site. All proceeds benefit the IAFF Charitable Foundation. Advertisers include those that manufacture or supply fire and rescue products and services, including industry leaders such as Globe, Lion Apparel and MSA, among others.
The volume of affiliate assistance remains high as our members continue to face threats on numerous fronts, and our Communications and Media Department’s work to defend our affiliates has been remarkable.
In particular, social media have become a focus in all of our fighting back work to educate members, the media and the public on battles being waged across the United States and Canada against our members and other public workers, and have proved effective in communicating the vital role our members play in communities throughout North America.
We have provided support for affiliates from coast to coast – including assistance during the 2012 Convention to Scranton, PA Local 60, which needed help managing a tidal wave of media and public attention after the mayor reduced municipal workers’ wages to minimum wage, and to Philadelphia, PA Local 22 to organize a march on City Hall to call attention to the mayor’s refusal to honor an arbitration award.
The Department has continued to provide significant support to affiliates facing severe threats to their lives and livelihoods from extremist politicians determined to rid our members of their hard-earned rights and benefits. We haven’t won every battle but we have leveled the playing field in many places.
In Memphis, we helped Local 1784 with a campaign to restore an illegal pay cut for fire fighters and other public employees. Efforts included creating a splash page, online banner ads and posts to social media, including direct tweets to members of the Memphis City Council.
We assisted the Professional Fire Fighters of Oklahoma in planning a rally in Oklahoma City protesting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which held its Spring 2013 Summit in Oklahoma City. Efforts included creating splash pages, online banner ads, flyers, and posts to social media, videos and other communications.
We were very successful in helping Allen Park, MI Local 1410 with an aggressive public education campaign asking citizens to vote yes on a fire and police millage to prevent deep cuts to public safety. The millage measure, which was the full extent of the ballot, passed by a 70-30 margin. This was a huge win as it was a single issue, single site, August special election in a politically charged atmosphere during poor economic times, under an emergency manager, after three previous millages failed. The IAFF Communications and Media Department assisted with the campaign strategy, message development and collateral materials, and the Political Action Department assisted in get-out-the-vote efforts.
We developed a similar campaign for Lincoln Park, MI Local 1292 to put pressure on the City Council to approve a contract proposal that met the City’s mandate to find $1 million in savings/concessions needed to balance the budget and pass a millage increase.
Wausau, WI Local 415 needed public relations assistance to prevent elected officials representing the Town of Rib Mountain and the Village of Weston (part of Local 415) from implementing a plan to disband the Weston Fire and EMS Department and transfer fire and EMS services to a new fire district.
We worked closely with Shreveport, LA Local 514 regarding a public relations crisis involving Local 514 members. We helped prepare a statement and talking points and assisted with messaging and a media response strategy so the local was prepared for any potential media calls and interviews. We also helped Local 514 develop a social media presence through Facebook and Twitter.
In Kansas City, we assisted Local 42 in its lengthy fight against a City administration that wanted to lay off 105 fire fighters, helping with production of a television ad, preparation of multiple fliers, yard signs and copy for billboards. We also assisted the local by drafting statements and generally providing public relations guidance throughout the major struggle.
In St. Louis, we assisted Local 73 with its efforts to respond to the mayor’s power grab during his pension reform efforts by writing an op-ed for the local president, as well as conducting a broad online public relations effort, including a web site and social media.
We helped write press releases for Salem, OR Local 314 raising alarm over the City’s decision to close two fire stations overnight. We followed up with an op-ed and several letters to the editor.
And we provided assistance with media coverage for Bethany, OK Local 2085 regarding retaliation against the union when the City fired a fire fighter following an arbitration win.
Our public relations consultant Scott Treibitz and his team at Tricom Associates have assisted us in many campaigns, along with E-18, including in our ongoing work with Detroit, MI Local 344 leadership to develop an internal communications strategy for keeping members informed of the potential effects on their pension and healthcare benefits after the city manager filed for bankruptcy in July 2013.
We had a successful outcome in a six-month fight to keep 19 Omaha, NE Local 385 members on the job after the mayor threatened to dangerously reduce fire department resources. Our efforts included an aggressive public education campaign that featured an issue-specific web site, social media and other avenues to send the message that the proposed cuts would jeopardize public safety. The local also conducted a survey of citizens and released the results – which showed overwhelming support for fire fighters – at a press conference. Following the press event, the City proposed an alternative that kept our members on the job and provided a balanced budget.
Another long-term fight for Coventry, RI Local 3372 involved on an ongoing campaign to prevent full liquidation of the fire department and privatization of EMS through print and online ads, op-eds, social media and public events.
When Dyersburg, Tennessee, removed battalion chiefs from the field and reassigned them to administrative jobs, we assisted Local 2269 with a campaign to reverse the decision, which reduced the numbers of on-scene fire fighters and affected the incident command structure. Dyersburg Local 2269 is a small IAFF local that just re-affiliated with the IAFF less than a year ago. The campaign included a bold print ad in the newspaper that was the main source of news. The full-page ad ran in the Sunday paper, and Dyersburg Local 2269 reposted it on its Facebook page. The following day, the mayor contacted the local president to request a meeting with him and two City Council members. Within the week, the battalion chiefs were back on the frontline.
We also assisted Aurora, CO Local 1290 with a campaign to convince the City Council to postpone a decision that would have wrongfully changed the disciplinary appeals process for first responders. The 11-member Aurora City Council backed off the proposal after hearing from concerned first responders about how the appeals process would be harmed by the proposed measure. The proposed initiative would have caused Aurora members to operate under a theory of being “guilty until proven innocent” in cases brought before the city’s Civil Service Commission.
These are just a few of the dozens of campaigns we have assisted with over the past two years.
In 2012, our focus was on the 2012 elections at both the state and local level. Working closely with the Governmental, Political and Public Affairs Division, we supported our efforts to re-elect President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, as well as other fire fighter-friendly candidates in congressional, gubernatorial and state and local races, through print, broadcast and Internet campaigns, social media and a Fire Fighters for Obama web site and Facebook page – all designed to educate members and the public about the importance of the election to our members, labor and the Middle Class.
In addition, the Department assisted with the production and distribution of multiple campaign pieces, including pro-Obama and anti-Romney television ads (which ran in Washington, DC and Virginia) and online advertising in newspapers in Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Florida, Colorado, New Hampshire and Nevada. We also produced television ads in Missouri, Indiana, Ohio and Maine for several U.S. Senate races. At the state level, we worked with affiliates in Michigan on a collective bargaining ballot initiative and in California helped defeat Proposition 32, running television ads in both of those states. In addition, we assisted the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts with email communications to its members to help elect Elizabeth Warren to the U.S. Senate.
When the unanticipated happens, from the floods in Alberta to the tornadoes in Oklahoma, our Communications and Media Department is immediately in action.
In October 2012, when Super Storm Sandy wreaked havoc across the East Coast, the Department made sure that information about members in the storm region and the assistance this union offers was posted online through social media and email messages. Equally important was communicating the need for donations to replenish the IAFF Disaster Relief Fund and to urge members to help IAFF members who suffered losses of their own. Throughout the IAFF response, we posted photos and updates from our leadership on the ground at our disaster relief operations center in New York City on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, the IAFF response to the storm was the cover story for the November-December 2012 issue of the magazine.
Following the tragic line-of-duty deaths of 19 wildland fire fighters in Prescott, Arizona, last June, the Department provided numerous online, email and social media updates regarding memorial services, fundraising efforts and other news and developments related to the tragedy. The Department also arranged interviews and managed interview requests from media covering the story. In addition, our graphic designer worked with our Health and Safety staff on the ground to design the public memorial service program book. The cover story for the July-August issue of our magazine was dedicated to the tragedy.
Sadly, we also had line-of-duty deaths in Houston, Indianapolis, Bryan (Texas), Toledo and Boston, and our communications team made sure members were kept up to date about services, donations and other logistics and provided assistance to IAFF staff on the ground.
As part of our efforts to promote our union and advance our social media presence with bloggers and reporters, in 2011, 2012 and 2013, our Communications and Media Department staff participated in Netroots Nation, an annual conference of progressive bloggers and reporters. As a sponsor of the conference, we had the opportunity to exhibit, which helped build relationships with a segment of journalists we hope to engage to help create more awareness for the IAFF, our members and public safety issues. In 2012, working with our Providence Local 799, we held a successful Fire Ops for conference speakers, bloggers, media representatives and local elected leaders, including the mayor. In 2013, in San Jose, we again conducted a very successful Fire Ops event in conjunction with Local 230. The 2014 Netroots Nations is in Detroit and we will have similar presence again.
Since the last Convention, the Department has been involved in several major projects.
In early 2013, much of the Department’s time was occupied with helping our Technical Assistance and Information Resources Division prepare for and promote the release of the results of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) High Rise Study, which were announced in April in Phoenix, Arizona. The Department was involved in this project in a number of ways, including designing and laying out the study results, executive summary and other pieces of collateral, creating an online resource for affiliates with PDFs of the study and executive summary, sample press releases, op-eds, fact sheets and other tools to use in their own jurisdictions to educate decision makers about the importance of crew size and why having too few fire fighters can cost lives and property in high-rise building fires. The Department worked with the Information Technology Department to develop this resource, as well as create a similar web site available to the public that includes information for reporters. Also, the study was promoted heavily through email blasts, Twitter, Facebook and the IAFF web site. In addition, we held a “live chat” using an audio stream and chat room. Affiliate leaders were invited to participate to learn more about the results and how to use them, and to ask questions. The Department also helped coordinate the press event, provided onsite support and posted the live video stream of the press conference in progress.
The Department also works with the IAFF Charitable Foundation to promote its activities and funds, including social media efforts, events and other Foundation activities and needs, including promoting the International Burn Camp and Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Observance. Additionally, the Department assists in the promotion of several cause marketing partnerships. Other Foundation projects include the promotion of Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaigns and production of the Foundation Calendar and Christmas cards.
The IAFF has partnered with Susan G. Komen since 2011 to offer the Passionately Pink for the Cure program to our affiliates during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Funds raised are split equally between the IAFF Charitable Foundation and Komen. And, for the third consecutive year, we held our very popular “Best Pink T-shirt Design” contest. In Canada, the IAFF partnered with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) to help affiliates raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research through its CIBC Run for the Cure and other activities. Hundreds more affiliates in the United States and Canada conducted campaigns during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in support of local and national cancer organizations. Affiliates sent photos and stories from their campaigns, which were posted on Facebook and published in our magazine.
Following the 2012 Convention where a resolution was adopted to support Operation Warm, we began our partnership and support for a hugely successful program for affiliates to provide brand new, made-in-the-USA coats to children in poverty. Since the inception of Firefighters for Operation Warm, more than 150 affiliates are participating. Operation Warm has also developed a dedicated web site for affiliates to find information and resources for their campaigns. This unique program has helped affiliates provide more than 50,000 coats to keep kids warm.
Best of all, I am proud to report that when we began our work with Operation Warm, they were handing out new coats made wherever they could get them. With our prompting, Operation Warm found a manufacturer in the United States to sew coats for our union’s fundraising efforts, quickly bringing work back to the U.S. and providing our members working on this project with a great source of pride. While the manufacturing was being done in this country, the initial shop wasn’t union, but was the only shop that was able to make the volume of coats we needed under our tight deadline. And now, in just our second full year of this great partnership, our full vision for this program was realized when Operation Warm was able find and sign a contract with a union shop in Alabama to sew the coats for this chartable effort.
It’s a pretty incredible testament to the commitment and work of our union and the Operation Warm staff that in just two years we went from a program that was distributing any new coat it could find, to providing our affiliates with a fully union made coat – from the materials, to the sewing to the printed tags – providing dozens of workers in Alabama with union jobs and keeping them on the sewing line when they otherwise would have been sent to the unemployment line.
Recognizing that modern information delivery systems are moving beyond the traditional desktop pc paradigm, over the past year and a half we have been working to move our web presence toward a dynamic, responsive, mobile-friendly design, as well as building an app to provide mobile users with a streamlined path to our information.
Under this philosophy, all new page designs begin with a ‘mobile first’ approach and scale up from there. The result is a lean, focused, efficient, dynamic and engaging user experience on the web site.
Prior to the full re-design of the web site, for several of the specialty sub sites that we regularly build for IAFF events and programs, we added mobile-friendly sections for users on the go. For the Legislative Conferences, we provided a mobile-friendly section purposed to deliver the Issues Book to mobile devices, allowing Conference attendees to have the information available in hand while canvassing Capitol Hill without the burden of a bulky binder.
For the Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS), we added a page to the www.iaff.org/mobile/ area to provide users who were logged in and already registered with a list of the workshops they are assigned. This list is queried from iMIS in real time and thus reflects any changes or updates.
In conjunction with the main IAFF.ORG site rebuild rollout for this Convention, there was a need to develop an IAFF mobile app for iOS and Android devices.
In order to gauge and assess 1) the actual versus perceived market for an IAFF mobile app; 2)
the features that such an app would likely need to become a valuable part of the IAFF member
portfolio; and 3) the overall usage habits and preferences of IAFF members vis-à-vis mobile
apps, we determined that the first logical step would be to survey members and affiliate officers online. We received more than 500 responses, and the qualitative and quantitative data attained through the survey gave us solid, concrete information on which to base a Request for Proposals (RFP).
After careful review and analysis of more than 60 responses to our RFP, Gunnison Consulting Group, Inc. of Chevy Chase, Maryland was selected. Gunnison brings substantial experience in application development, and particularly mobile device apps, having delivered highly adaptive mobile projects for the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA). It has a strong commitment to process and a clearly defined reiterative cycle of engagement, development, demonstration and review.
This partnership was also extended to include the main web site redesign for full mobile functionality. Graphic design, navigation, content management, messaging and presentation strategy have been re-conceived to retain a consistent and intuitive user experience on any device. Integral to the new design is the engagement of members and leaders to provide content and tools relevant to their role in the IAFF. Members can use the app to provide pictures/videos/stories to the International office for review and publication throughout our communication channels. Affiliate leaders can post articles that automatically publish to their members only, and can quickly access the tools provided by the IAFF to conduct their union business. The goal is to enhance and streamline communication between members and leaders at all levels.
2013 Breast Cancer Awareness web site: http://www.iaff.org/events/pink2013/index.html
For this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness site, we completely refreshed the content and design from the ground up and developed a user-friendly, intuitive navigation scheme. As reported in the Communications section of this report, the site was very well received by Susan G. Komen for the Cure and our affiliates, and was a substantial improvement from prior year’s efforts. As part of the project, we provided a facility for affiliates to upload entries and then for members to vote for their favorites in our Pink T-shirt design contest.
Media Awards site: http://www.iaff.org/mediaawards/
Our web staff also worked closely with our communications staff on a web application to handle the annual Media Awards Contest. The application intakes entries, notifies local presidents and records their review, and provides a console for administration and judging. This application will be reusable for future years.
New for 2014 were separate entry forms for affiliate leaders and media professionals. The navigation scheme and layout were redesigned to make more semantic sense to the reader (e.g., large categories, such as “print, broadcast and internet,” were given landing pages with additional navigational elements [CSS buttons] that broke out into subcategories, making it easier for the reader to browse). The site was designed with a large degree of interactivity (photos, videos and stories showcasing the winners’ work.
Development and Construction of Netroots Web site http://www.iaff.org/netroots/index.html)
Another project that showed the continuing trend of communication and web overlap was the design and development of the web site for the Netroots Nation Fire Ops 101 event in San Jose, California is June 2013. The site is feature-rich, with videos and photos that describe the event to potential participants. Participants also were able to register for the event directly through the Netroots site.
Development of Comprehensive Affordable Care Act (ACA) Informational Web site
(http://www.iaff.org/healthcare/). Web staff also helped design and implement a new site created for IAFF members to better understand the new healthcare law. In an effort to better inform members of the complexities of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to answer their questions, we developed the web site to serve as a clearinghouse to direct members to authoritative resources on the ACA. The site features links to official government web sites, features videos and other educational overviews, and offers an affiliate toolkit to help affiliates better understand the impacts of the ACA. As well as delivering resources to leaders, the site gathers information about affiliates’ situations via a comprehensive online survey.
Federation of State and Provincial Professional Fire Fighters
Our partnership with the Federation of State and Provincial Professional Fire Fighters (FSPPFF) also took another step forward as our web staff worked with FSPPFF officers to move the web site from an external hosting service to the main IAFF.ORG server. The login for that site was integrated with the IAFF.ORG/iMIS system and is restricted to state/provincial officers, District Vice Presidents and staff. This site now lives at: http://www.iaff.org/fsppff/.
International Fire Fighter Magazine for the iPad, iPhone
Staff also developed a facility that delivers a version of our magazine that is compatible with non-Flash enabled devices, such as the iPad and iPhone. This system translates the Flash version into basic html, so staff time required to produce this additional version is minimal.
Fire Fighters for Mahlon Mitchell web site
Working closely with our political staff, the web department also assisted with design and deployment of the Fire Fighters for Mahlon Mitchell web site.
IAFF Charitable Foundation Web site
The new IAFF Charitable Foundation web site was rolled out in 2012, and while it was built by an outside vendor, our staff updates this site and continues to administer the back end. Something new here for us is that this site runs under the DRUPAL content management system in a Linux environment. Prior to the development of this site, all of our web sites were (and still are) set up and maintained under an IIS / Windows environment. Staff reports that the site functionality is good, but the system is a bit buggier than those we administer in the Windows environment.
NIST High Rise Study
As also reported in the Technical Assistance and Communications reports, web staff worked to develop and deploy a new public web site (www.FireAndEMSdata.com), to deliver the study and video of the media event announcing the study results. In conjunction with this site, a secured site was also built at www.iaff.org/nistaffiliate to provide a toolkit and support information for affiliates. Five days prior to the release, staff setup and hosted a secure chat room and conference call to help affiliate leaders prepare for the report’s release.
Virtual Headquarters Tour
Also, as part of the headquarters tours program, our web staff setup and delivered a virtual headquarters tour via Skype for a 7th District meeting. Several of our Assistants presented brief overviews about their respective divisions and took questions from leaders assembled at the meeting via the Skype connection. Seventh District Vice President Ricky Walsh handled the presentation and facilities on the West Coast.
Although too numerous to list, our web staff also works regularly with different departments to deploy online surveys and forms to gather information and use for various programs. Two that stand out include a privatization of fire and EMS services survey created for the Technical Assistance and Information Resources and an online form for our Health and Safety Division to accept applications for potential Fire Ground Survival (FGS) course licensees.
We have added a new team member, a Web Content Specialist to primarily focus on content accuracy, presentation and quality control, as well as on the technical aspects of web operations. The Web Content Specialist serves as a liaison (editor, writer and fact-checker) to the various departments to ensure fresh, accurate content. When there is a need for new web content or updates, rather than each department making updates, additions and changes, the job order comes to the Specialist. The work of this position is another marker of the continued overlap of our web and communications work.
Finally, some web stats: 7,966,810 pages on our web site were viewed by 1,229,366 unique visitors during 3,955,970 visits in 2013. Of those, 51.17 percent were from Windows based clients compared to 10.25 percent using a Macintosh. Almost 14 percent of visitors used an iOS (iPhone/iPod) device and 4.51 percent used Android. More than 40 percent of visits to our web site are handled through a mobile device, which is up from under 15 percent prior to the 2012 Convention.
Our membership data is stored and updated using iMIS membership management software. Our Database Administrator Carmen Gloukhoff and her staff work every day to ensure the integrity of the data that goes into iMIS, that the appropriate reports are available to all who use the data, and that we are tapping into the extensive functionality of the software to expand our use of this powerful tool across the IAFF.
Of course, with any software, updates and upgrades are critical for adding functionality, ensuring security and maintaining reliability. To make sure we continue to do this with our organization’s most important resource – our member data – we maintain a schedule of updating and upgrading iMIS every other year.
In 2011, the iMIS upgrade was completed over the Columbus Day weekend and brought us to version 15.1.3. This process includes upgrading Public Views (iMIS’ online components). With more and more iMIS integration over the years, the process of upgrading versions becomes more and more involved. In 2013, we went from 15.1.3. to 15.2.15. This version of iMIS incorporates more .NET technology in an effort to eventually leave behind the back office application in favor of an Internet browser-based application. Many of the enhancements are related to something called RiSE (formerly WCM) which provides web content management and the web-based version of iMIS. The web-based version of iMIS allows for data querying and updates to member records. We use this functionality on our web site.
In preparation for upgrading to 15.2.15, staff tested iMIS to ensure they will not be negatively affected by the upgrade. Currently, 70 IAFF staff use iMIS (35 full user licenses and 35 casual user licenses) in their work.
In addition to testing the iMIS application, we tested the following items in preparation for the upgrade, which include basic off-the-shelf products, add-on modules, custom written applications and database integration projects.
Add-on applications that work off of the iMIS database include:
Some custom applications we’ve had created for IAFF-specific business logic that are not available in off-the shelf iMIS or iMIS add-ons are:
We also have programmed iMIS integration with non-iMIS databases, including:
In May 2013 we completed the upgrade to iMIS 15.2.15, from 15.1.3. A new .NET virtual server was stood up for iMIS and public views (web facing application) to better support the volume of traffic generated from our web site, as well as iMIS back-office client installations, and 70 workstations were updated to the current version. New features and enhancements are at http://docs.imis.com/15.2/.
iMIS Online Events Rewrite
In conjunction with the iMIS 15.2.15 Upgrade, the online events registration interface was rewritten.
Per capita statements continue to be sent out electronically. Local treasurers have the option of receiving statements via email, via mail or both email and mail. As of the date of this report, 608 treasurers have selected email only; 88 have selected mail only; all others are receiving both email and mail. The statements are also written to PDFs that are accessible via the web site on the iaff.org local officer page (My Local >> Per Cap Assessment).
The National Change of Address Database tracks former and new addresses of people who move in the United States. Commencing with the mailing of the January/February 2012 edition of the International Fire Fighter, we used the results of a data comparison between iMIS and the NCOA to avoid mailing to former and invalid addresses. We continue to import address changes and “drops” on a bimonthly basis.
Starting in May 2012, we began receiving files from Canada’s National Change of Address Product, which provides information on addresses that are invalid. This process for both countries has enabled us to fix thousands of bad addresses and save significant money in return postage.
Donations to the IAFF Charitable Foundation are now tracked in iMIS’s fundraising module. The fundraising module can track funds, source codes, pledges, matching gifts, in-kind donations, tributes and many other items that are relevant to a 501(c)3 organization. Custom acknowledgement letters are written in Crystal Reports and added to the iMIS interface for use in ad-hoc letter creation by IAFF Foundation staff.
iDonate is a web interface into iMIS that allows for targeted campaigns for donation solicitation that program managers can manage without having to rely on the IT Department. This application was implemented in the fall of 2012. It provides options to allow for non-member record creation or limiting donation to logged-in users-only on a solicitation-by-solicitation basis.
Our database staff, like our web staff, interacts and supports the work of many IAFF Divisions. One example is the monthly routine that has been established to import Education Department courses completed on our Learning Management System (LMS) site into iMIS. On a monthly basis, we import courses completed on our LMS site into iMIS. To-date we have imported 12,502 records. These records add additional fields to the information we track about our members.
One of the major benefits of the functionality of iMIS is our ability to conduct and track registration for all IAFF events directly in our database and produce reports, as needed, in real time. Some of the new additions to the iMIS registration process:
For the first time, registration for the IAFF-MG Motorcycle Rally was made available online through an iMIS interface, with all data being tracked in iMIS. Pricing is based on the membership level of the person who is logged in. The breakdown of categories is:
A registrant can register a “Rider” and a “Passenger” for the event.
The 2014 Motorcycle Rally online event registration is currently open. The event will take place in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Registration for the Canadian Legislative Conference is online using the online registration system. Some of the newer functionality includes allowing for local officers to register members of their own local. Registrants can register via credit card, with charges in Canadian dollars to our Canadian PayPal account.
Health and Safety staff has been trained in iMIS event creation, including setting up online registration pages. Peer Fitness Training classes are set up routinely by staff, with the first events tracked in iMIS in March 2011. Fire Ground Survival classes are also available online.
We are now in our tenth year of tracking Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial registrations in iMIS. This event requires more data maintenance than others, as repeat registrants create new records online for themselves, which we later de-duplicate. De-duplication of records is key when tracking the history of any given individual.
We’ve also now completed our tenth year of online registration using iMIS for the Legislative Conference.
The John P. Redmond Symposium/Dominick F. Barbera EMS Conference registration process, — similar to the Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS and Human Relations Conference – requires a sophisticated process for signing up for classes/workshops.
Online registration was created for two PEP Regional events:
Similar processes will be employed for future Partnership Education Program (PEP) regional events.
Database Administration is also tasked with supporting the Credentials Committee and staff during Convention. So, at this Convention, for example, staff supports the registration process, provides reporting assistance and technical support as needed.
To track Convention registrant arrival, we have staff and committee members use the CheckIn Module, which inserts database activity when a badge is handed out. Tracking delegate arrival assists with verifying registrant attendance, which is needed for processing the Convention Roll Call report. Other areas of work include creation of badge reports, badge exports, registration reporting and processing of registration.
Dissemination of FIREPAC reception tickets is also tracked using the CheckIn module. This allows staff to track prospective attendance and used by the Conference and Events Planning Department in determining food/beverage needs.
New for this 2014 Convention is a combined effort between the General Secretary-Treasurer’s Office and Membership Department on a project to move our Convention credential procedure to a fully automated, online process using iMIS to track all activity.
The online application is comprised of two sections: (1) Credentialing and (2) Convention Registration. The credentialing section displays for authenticated presidents and secretaries (or secretary/treasurers) and allows them to select delegates, alternate delegates and proxies (if applicable). The registration process checks delegate approval status and then runs delegates through the registration process allowing them to pay for guest tickets during the process.
Auto Draft, an iMIS back-office add-on application, is used to draft recurring payments. We are currently researching the potential to use this application in the dues collection process. Currently, only U.S. members can pay their dues online.
The process is such that affiliate leaders login monthly to our web site, then login to SunTrust’s web site, and then make a payment. With the creation of a dues/web interface into AutoDraft, U.S. and Canadian affiliate leaders could opt-in and agree to have monthly dues automatically drawn from their checking accounts (credit cards would not be accepted in order to eliminate fees – very few locals pay with credit cards now). The improvements would be:
Our Database staff is currently working with the Membership Department to define payment scheduling, verbiage and application entry point.
In our ongoing effort at automation of our internal processes for all programs, International Burn Camp directors, counselors and campers are now registered for our International Burn Camp and tracked in iMIS by IAFF Foundation staff. This allows for improved reporting and contact management of these individuals.
The Membership Department has made tremendous strides in collecting the email addresses of IAFF affiliate leaders, and is now putting forth an effort to ensure we have email addresses for as many of our members as possible. In order to assist in tracking this effort, a new field has been created to track members who have “Declined to Supply Email.”
Combined with the effort to increase the number of emails in our database is work to increase the number of members for whom we have a date of birth and mobile phone number. In the database, the date of birth field has been made a required field in the Member Profile. As such, a member cannot edit their profile without populating this field, and as the department reaches out to affiliates for membership updates, mobile numbers are being specifically requested. This information is critical to our ability to provide assistance to affiliates in election efforts for voter targeting.
There are areas on the web site that allow people to create a non-member record in our database, such as Fire Ground Survival training, Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial and other event registrations. This feature is needed to allow non-members the ability to use relevant features for those events where non-members attend or take part. However, members at times will create non-member records for themselves. When this happens, we go through a de-duplication process to eliminate the duplicate, while keeping the most up-to-date contact information. In 2013, 634 duplicates were merged, helping us ensure that our data is good.
We have moved HazMat class and student tracking into iMIS of class requests, class approvals, class inventory, registrants and statistical data for grant reporting purposes. This project significantly enhances our data collection process tied to our HazMat training and will now have that data stored directly in iMIS, while also ending our reliance on an old FileMaker Pro system for this program.
The IAFF’s web-based expense reporting solution, Concur, was implemented in November 2011. Concur allows for online submittal of reports and receipts by users, as well as online approval and processing by approvers and accounting staff. It also enables clean audit trails and extensive reporting capabilities. During the implementation, integration was built from Concur to both Dynamics (our general accounting software), as well as to ADP (the IAFF’s payroll solution). Imports are now done on a weekly basis to bring data from Concur into Dynamics and then to ADP on a bi-weekly basis.
Concur training is available online at http://www.concurtraining.com/customers/iaff/. This page contains manuals, FAQs and interactive simulation on the most commonly used features within
Concur. Within Concur, help is available on every page by clicking on the “Help” link. Training continues to be offered/provided to all who are directed to use the system.
Concur also has apps available for iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Droid. Features have been well received by users, as has the application as a whole.
Concur uses Cognos, an IBM product as its report-writing solution. Cognos comes with dozens of canned Concur reports that we can copy and modify to customize as needed. For example, HazMat has specific needs for tracking expenditures charged to grants. We’ve set up permissions for grant accountants to access this data. Custom reports have been created to track expenditures per grant and CIN (class identification number) in a format that mimics custom reports written in ReQlogic.
Concur Travel is a Concur module that allows users to make travel arrangements online within Concur. The module requires use of a travel agency that uses Concur Travel for online booking. Beginning in 2013, we implemented Concur Travel for use by the IAFF. The first step in preparing for the implementation was to review the existing Travel Policy, taking the opportunity to update it in accordance with existing technologies.
A demonstration of Concur Travel & Expense is at:
Concur Travel was released to staff and DVPs in March 2013. The application allows that travel arrangements and expense reporting occur in one single application. Features include:
Using this system has enabled us to account for the overwhelming majority of travel expenses all within one tracking system.
NETWORK and IT SUPPORT
One of the most important pieces of our IT operation is the work of our Department of Network and IT Support. This department maintains all of the server, computer and network systems, hardware, software and connections that are used by IAFF officers, DVPs and staff. In addition to maintaining our private datacenter (our IAFF cloud), which houses all of our servers that process the email, files and systems used in running the union, Network and IT staff support all IAFF employees in their computing needs.
While a good portion of every day work for this department is responding to the needs of staff through our internal Help Desk, there are a number of major projects related to our network infrastructure.
To ensure that our systems stay updated, we performed a Network Infrastructure upgrade in 2013. In that upgrade, the Cisco switches on both the 2nd and 3rd floors were replaced. The new Cisco switches all have gigabyte speed switch ports that run at 1,000 Mbs per second, while the older switches ran at 100 Mbs per second. The connections between the switches and the IAFF Server Room were also upgraded from standard network cables to Fiber to handle the increased speed.
Another part of the network upgrade included adding a secured wireless segment to both floors of headquarters. This wireless system is controlled by one web-based controller that can be accessed securely from anywhere inside the office. We placed five wireless access points on each floor to ensure complete coverage. These access points can load balance and allow devices to transition from one device to another seamlessly much like cell phones do with cell towers. The wireless controller allows us to create ad-hoc wireless networks for meetings that automatically disappear when the meeting is over. This way we do not have to change the password for the main wireless after every meeting and force everyone to logoff and back on again. We can also control where people can go while on the wireless, so we could, depending on the meeting, either just allow internet and disallow access to our data or allow access to our file server or other servers in our datacenter. This functionality provides additional security for our network, while allowing broader access to staff to complete their work.
Most of the IAFF Servers in our datacenter are virtual servers running on VMWare software. We currently have 45 servers that run on three physical machines that make up our Server Farm. These three physical servers connect to our EMC Storage Area Network (SAN) and can share data so the virtual IAFF servers can migrate between the three physical servers while still running. This allows us to upgrade the virtual environment without any downtime during business hours, which we accomplished in 2013. We shut down some of the non-critical servers and then migrated virtual servers off one of the physical servers onto the other two. Then we upgraded the server and brought the virtual servers back. Staff then repeated the process for the other two. This process took four days to complete.
To ensure that our business continuity plan is solid, we purchased a secondary onsite backup device to reduce the load on the single device we had. This was necessary because we backup so much data, trying to send that data to our offsite backup system through the one device was taking over a week to complete. The second device is configured to back up the Exchange Server and the other IAFF Windows servers. The Exchange server by itself is almost 35 percent of all data stored offsite. Both devices can send data to the offsite datacenter simultaneously, thus reducing the complete offsite copy from eight days to three days.
We also setup a storage server at a datacenter in Ottawa, Canada, and joined it to our Domain at headquarters in Washington, DC, and then created a secure router-to-router VPN tunnel. Then we configured our SQL Database Servers to send their database backup (.bak) files to that server. Before this setup, the SQL servers would backup individual databases to a server in our office, then those files would be sent offsite. In the new scenario, the SQL servers send the backups directly to an offsite datacenter, thus reducing the time it takes to get those files offsite.
We worked with Budget & Finance as it looked for a document management system. After substantial research, we purchased KwikTag Imaging software, and our IT staff assisted with technical setup of the system. KwikTag sent us the server requirements and we created a Windows Server per those requirements. This server is a virtual server running in our VMware server environment. We also gave the KwikTag deployment team access to the server to configure the KwikTag server software. We then configured the copiers on the 2nd and 3rd floors to be able to scan directly into KwikTag.
Our phone system is an internet protocol system, which means it runs through our computer network. The way our network is designed, the computer connections to each user runs through their phone, that way we only need one connection per user.
To ensure that our network communications are always functioning efficiently, we must upgrade our phone system (both the handsets and the servers) as we upgrade our network.
Since we upgraded our system switches to increase the speed of our network, we have also been upgrading the handsets of each user using a tiered replacement process.
At the same time, the IAFF phone system, including the Voicemail server, was upgraded from Cisco Unity Connection 7.1 to Cisco Communications 9.0. The older system was running on servers that were seven years old. We purchased two new Cisco servers specially configured for the phone system. These servers run VMWare operating systems much like our IAFF datacenter. The phone and voice mail servers are virtual and can seamlessly transition between the two Cisco servers for fault tolerance and load balancing.
In the fall of 2013, it was time to replace an old EMC CX3-20 Storage Area Network (SAN) server with a new EMC VNX 5300 SAN. The new SAN has more than twice the usable space and faster drives for better access to our files. It also has six Solid State drives that can hold data that is accessed most frequently by staff and is dynamically managed by the system. That means, as users request information from the file server, the most frequently used files are moved to the solid state drives that can deliver the files as if it is stored in RAM on the server. This allows the server to use its RAM more efficiently.
We connected the new SAN to the network and ported the files from the old SAN to the new during off hours so we did not interrupt work.
After the new SAN was in place, we also replaced the physical Dell server that was acting as our file server with a Virtual server configured on the SAN drives. The new virtual server has an upgraded operating system, more RAM and a faster processor.
As part of the renovations to our headquarters, we rewired and created new network connections to our existing infrastructure, and identified printer locations and placed the network drops to connect them. We also worked with the E-18 Media to allow its computers to connect to our network while working in the studio, as well as running audio and visual cables from the studio to the E-18 offices on the 3rd floor.
The way our entire organization uses technology to get our work done was reviewed and analyzed in 2013. This review was done at the request of the IAFF Executive Board. A request for proposal was made, and following an evaluation of over a dozen submissions, Potomac Information Systems of Silver Spring, Maryland, was chosen to conduct the review and provide recommendations.
Potomac’s findings and recommendations were reported to the IAFF Executive Board in February 2014. The Executive Board directed us to cost out a number of the recommendations made by Potomac for possible action at future Board meetings.
In its conclusion, Potomac stated:
The Information Technology Department already has an “enterprise wide” charter to provide hardware, software, database, network and desktop services, backup and security, and line-of-business independent services like email and helpdesk; they do so with less staff than comparable organizations.
That comment shines a light on the excellent work done by our IT, Database and Web Departments, and shows we are providing the kind of value for the dues our members pay that our members deserve.
All active-retired IAFF members are automatically members of the Alumni. Most former IAFF members with an inactive-retired membership status are eligible to participate provided that they retired or left their local in good standing.
Once a member leaves the IAFF, he/she is sent a postcard asking them to register as a member of the Alumni. Since the previous IAFF Convention in August 2012, IAFF Alumni membership has increased by 3,100. Our complete Alumni membership, including all active retirees and inactive members who signed up for the program, is just under 37,000. Dues-paying active-retired members make up 75 percent of Alumni membership, while inactive-retired former members equal the remaining 25 percent.
Several informational and strategic efforts continue to increase membership, including raising awareness at IAFF events with promotional items (travel coffee mugs, water bottles, key chains, pens and decals). The face-to-face communication also provides a better understanding of inactive and active retiree membership in this program.
Alumni interest continues to increase at the local level. Marketing materials are available for affiliates to use on their web sites or have on hand to distribute to prospective Alumni members at their state and local meetings.
The Alumni registration process changed in September 2012. The new process of simply sending a postcard containing clear instructions of how to sign up has increased membership activation by 35n percent in the first year and saved the Alumni budget almost $15,000 in printing and shipping costs since Fiscal Year 2011.
Each new retiree receives a welcome postcard introducing Alumni eligibility that directs them to the registration web site at www.alumniiaff.com. There, they enter the personal code listed on their postcard to complete registration. Once this has been completed, a second mailing is sent to new Alumni the following month that includes an Alumni membership card, two car decals and a thank you letter listing benefits.
New inactive-retired Alumni members have the option to subscribe to the Fire Fighter Quarterly once they have completed their online registration. More than 700 inactive-retired Alumni have subscribed to the magazine. A renewal notice is emailed prior to the expiration of their subscription each year.
The International Fire Fighters Unions Alliance (IFFUA), commonly referred to as the Global Alliance, has continued its communication efforts since the previous IAFF Convention in August 2012.
We invited our sister unions from the Global Alliance to join us in August 2013 at the John P. Redmond Symposium/Dominick F. Barbera EMS Conference in Denver to discuss ongoing issues and share experiences. Attendees came from the United Kingdom (FBU), Australia (UFUA), New Zealand (NZPFU), Ireland (IFESA) and Sweden (the Confederation of Swedish Firefighters), as well as representatives from the European Fire Fighters Unions Alliance (EFFUA). Participants discuss international issues facing the global fire fighter labor force.
Over the past two years, our unions have communicated and assisted each other on a number of issues across the world. One of the biggest victories came with our assistance for our sisters and brothers in UFUA in advancing their presumptive efforts. The IAFF and the members of the IFFUA will continue communication efforts and share information to raise awareness and pass policy affecting the health and safety of fire fighters across the globe.