Media, Communication & Information Systems Division
When the IAFF was first organized 100 years ago, the only means of communicating with members was through the International Fire Fighter, our flagship publication that was first published in 1918. Now named Fire Fighter Quarterly, the magazine remains an important part of our communications efforts. However, it is now just a small piece of a broad network of tools available to communicate with leaders, members, local and national decision-makers and the media.
Our Communications and Strategic Campaigns and Media Department is combined with our Information Systems Department to form a sophisticated operation that creates the technology backbone of the work done at headquarters and helps us effectively deliver news and information to our members, the media and the public. We use every news, social media, internet, video, audio, print and electronic medium available to get our message out.
Media & Communications
Since our last convention, we have increased and leveraged our online and electronic platforms to connect with members where they are and deliver content in ways they want to receive it, whether it’s a message on Twitter, an infographic on Facebook, a 10-second video, a 200-word email, a two-page magazine feature or a one-hour webinar.
By working hand-in-hand with our in-house, full-service video and broadcast production company, E-18 Media, we can provide real-time communications using our video capabilities to produce webcasts and report on events as they happen through Facebook and other social media channels and the IAFF website. Whether it’s a rally in Memphis, our Cancer Summit or Legislative Conference or a FIRE OPS 101 event, we can broadcast live on Facebook and post video on YouTube for later viewing.
In the last two years, we have used video extensively as part of our efforts to shed more light on behavioral health issues in the fire service and to educate members about our work in this arena, including webinars, webcasts and other video programming (such as a Kitchen Table episode featuring members who struggled and eventually recovered from post-traumatic stress), and to promote the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery, an in-patient facility that we opened in March 2017 exclusively for IAFF members.
In 2014, video news reporting replaced our traditional Delegate daily print newsletter covering our convention. Using video, photos, infographics and other content, we post coverage throughout the week on the convention website and social media channels.
We also rely heavily on email communications to promote the work we do on behalf of our leaders and members. Affiliate leaders tell us that email is their preferred means of receiving news from the IAFF. Our email marketing efforts are successful in promoting events, programs, resources and services offered by the International. Open rates for our email blasts are consistently high compared with industry standards (in some cases, more than 45 percent). Additionally, our twice-monthly Frontline News Brief, with open rates between 30 and 38 percent, is emailed to affiliate leaders. The IAFF Daily email newsletter is sent to subscribers who opt in. Both include news, videos and other content that affiliates can use on their websites and social media.
Social media affords us an opportunity to promote the work of the IAFF on behalf of our membership and the activities of our affiliates and members, and portray our members and the dangerous work they do in a positive light to the public, other labor groups, fire service organizations and the media. In addition, social media is an ideal platform for video and infographics that highlight news, information and events affecting our members. Our Facebook page now has more than 225,000 followers and we have almost 35,000 followers on Twitter. Our social media presence also extends to YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr and others, including a Facebook page for the Center of Excellence.
Social media campaigns include our weekly Flashback Friday post on Facebook featuring past IAFF events, activities, advances and photos from our history. In February 2018, we initiated a new Facebook campaign to post weekly trivia questions related to IAFF history to drive traffic to the online history page developed in tandem with the 100th anniversary. In addition, we have been repurposing content from the online history for daily posts on Facebook and Twitter to highlight achievements the union has made over the last century.
The online history is a timeline that chronicles our union’s past and the many improvements and benefits that today make the IAFF a leader in the fire service and labor movement. Additional sections provide a more comprehensive overview of major trends and events, such as September 11, our partnership with MDA and the evolution of fire-based EMS, among others. In February 2018, we began our rollout of the history site, releasing one decade per week until all 100 years were online. This gave members time to walk through the history of the IAFF, see additional information each time they visited and share it with others, important steps for building another century of progress over the next 100 years.
Our main IAFF website, which is currently in transition to a newer technology, remains an important part of our communications operation. It provides news and information about the IAFF and our events, services and programs available to affiliates and members while offering resources to help affiliate leaders conduct IAFF business and be more effective in their media and community outreach. Our online toolkits offer resources on specific issues and materials to use in public safety campaigns.
Issue toolkit topics include active shooter incident response, opioid response protocols, EMS response staffing and other fire department deployment standards based on scientific study and data that can be used in negotiations or to educate elected officials and other decision-makers on the importance of maintaining support for fire and EMS systems.
Our public safety campaigns are designed to help affiliates promote safety in their communities and the value of professional fire fighters in keeping the public safe. Materials include sample press releases, infographics, suggested social media posts and public service announcements that can be shared on social media or to generate earned media. Our online calendar offers a guide on which campaigns to use each month to ensure a steady flow of public safety messaging all year. We also have a library of infographics for promoting safety, such as tips for high-rise safety, outdoor grilling, pet care and many more. We continue to add new campaigns and infographics, including co-branded materials in partnership with Nationwide’s Make Safe Happen campaign to prevent accidental injury and death among children.
These toolkits are one way we help our affiliates enhance their own external communications programs. We also hold an annual Communications Training Academy, now in its fourth year, to provide advanced-level training to help affiliates become better communicators.
In addition to our primary website, www.iaff.org, we have developed websites for specific events, such as the IAFF Cancer Summit and resource sites for members affected by hurricanes and other natural and man-made disasters. The division also works with other divisions to create websites and webpages, such as the IAFF Financial Corporation website. Staff also serve as the gatekeeper for the IAFF Center of Excellence website, hosted by Advanced Recovery Systems, including a steady flow of blog content.
Recently, we developed and now maintain the 2018 Convention website, providing ongoing updates and news leading up to the event. The site will feature reporting on Convention activities and action throughout the week of Convention.
Working with E-18 Media, we increased our affiliates’ ability to enhance their internal and external messaging, public relations efforts, political campaigns and public education/community outreach. Video has become a key piece in affiliate campaigns on numerous issues.
Fire Fighter Quarterly magazine is still widely read, even with so many news sources competing for attention. For 100 years, the IAFF publication has reported on every major issue facing the union and our members. In the last two years, we’ve covered legislative and political achievements, highlighted IAFF programs and resources, featured emerging threats and hazards – such as the opioid epidemic, cancer in the fire service and behavioral health issues, among other trends – and new developments affecting our members. Major cover stories in the last two years have included the huge victory for our Canadian affiliates in winning long-sought PSOC benefits for our members throughout Canada, the grand opening of the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery and our 100th anniversary.
With the reaffiliation of the Montreal Firefighters Association in fall 2017, we began producing a French edition of Fire Fighter Quarterly. Content is translated and the edition is printed by the Canadian office and mailed to members of Montreal Local 125.
This division is led by Jeff Zack, my assistant for Communications, Media and Information Systems. These areas are interdependent, and collaboration is needed because our communication relies on technology and network systems to be effective.
The Communications and Media Department includes Director of Communications Jane Blume and Director of Strategic Campaigns and Media Mark Treglio. The staff includes a writer, social media editor, associate editor, press secretary, graphic designer, assistant graphic designer and executive secretary. This team works hard to provide affiliate assistance, keep our membership informed, communicate effectively, promote our brand and build relationships with reporters and other labor and fire service organizations.
In addition, the division provides ongoing marketing and production support for all IAFF divisions, including events and other programs.
Since the last convention, the Communications and Media Department has worked extensively with the IAFF Foundation. In August 2017, we held two focus groups during the John P. Redmond Symposium and Dominick F. Barbera EMS Conference in Vancouver with leaders and members as part of an initiative to refocus, restructure and rebrand the Foundation. Earlier this year, we produced a short Year in Review video to provide a quick look at the work of the Foundation in helping our members and their families in 2017. It was a year that included back-to-back hurricanes, active shooter mass casualty events and incredible wildfires. Additional information about IAFF Foundation activities is in the Foundation report.
In conjunction with our centennial and the 2018 Convention, we initiated a fundraising campaign asking every member to support the IAFF Foundation by donating $100 for our 100 years. The Gold and Black 100th Anniversary Gala during Convention helps raise money for the foundation through sponsorships. Sponsorship packages include an ad in our Centennial History Album commemorating our 100 years of progress.
Our Communications and Media Department assists affiliates with many issues. Since the last convention, the volume of requests for assistance has continued to increase. In 2017 we retained two strategic campaign consultants – Doug Stern (a member of Cincinnati, OH Local 48) and Kent Grosse (a member of West Metro, CO Local 1309) – who have increased our ability to help hundreds of affiliates across the United States and Canada. Coupled with help from Tricom Associates, our public relations consultant through E-18 Media, we can serve as a full-service public relations and audio-visual resource for affiliates big and small.
In addition to assisting many locals in local election campaigns and ballot initiatives with messaging, graphic design, video production and targeted social media, we have worked on several big battles.
One such fight was in Dallas, Texas, where our Local 58 members’ pensions were under attack by the city. We developed a campaign that included social media messaging to remind the public of the important role their fire fighters serve in the community and educate them on the issue of tax giveaways. In just a few weeks, the conversation shifted from our members onto the mayor’s tax giveaways, which gave the local an opportunity to work on a pension deal during the legislative session.
Another giant battle is occurring in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where members of Local 198 endured brutal treatment at the hands of now former Governor Chris Christie. The local was the target of excessive staffing reductions and pay cuts. We assisted Local 198 in developing strong media relationships to help tell their story. With the election of a new governor, the local is optimistic it will be able to stop the cuts and restore some order.
We have also been assisting San Antonio, TX Local 624 as it promotes referendums to reduce the pay and the power of the city manager, with whom the local has been at odds for years. The local has been successful at getting signatures for petitions on the referendums.
Santa Fe County, NM Local 4366 has made great strides in bringing the department’s staffing issues to light. When city officials pleaded that they had no money, the local learned that the county had spent $90,000 for a graphic designer to create a new tourism logo. When the IAFF designed a logo for free, it caused a public uproar about how taxpayer money was being spent. The county ultimately passed a gross receipts tax to increase fire department staffing by 33 percent.
Our members in Petersburg, Virginia, stood strong in the wake of a budget crisis during which Local 2773 members came within hours of not being paid. The department’s new SCBAs had been repossessed because of non-payment, fire hydrants did not work properly and fleet maintenance couldn’t keep apparatus repaired and on the road. Local 2773 prevailed by implementing an “adopt a fire hydrant” campaign. The effort elicited such a great public response that officials had to remove city hall’s phone number from its website. Ultimately, the city hall building was used as collateral for purchasing new equipment.
We’ve continued to assist Wilmington, DE Local 1590 in a pitched battle over resources following the September 2016 deaths of three members in a rowhouse fire. While the city now has a new mayor and fire chief, it continues its push to change work schedules and brown out stations.
Our fight continues in assisting East Greenwich, RI Local 3328 in a battle with a town manager who has a vendetta against the local president. The town manager fired the local president’s brother. The local has won several court decisions and is working to generate public support.
Meanwhile, we assisted the Connecticut Police and Fire Union Local S-15 in a successful effort to defeat an attempt to eliminate the fire department at the state hospital.
We also defended our members in California, where Costa Mesa Local 1465 was the target of a political mailer sent by the mayor. We helped coordinate a social media campaign during the election cycle, and on election night the Local 1465-backed candidates won.
At the state level, several affiliates are fighting back against attacks. In Michigan, we’ve helped fend off multiple bills in consecutive sessions that would have stripped members of their healthcare and weakened their retirement security. And we’ve worked with members in Montana to pass presumptive cancer legislation and in Kentucky to fight off an attack on pensions.
Another big win was in New York where we assisted the New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association in battling the Con Con, a referendum that would have allowed for a constitutional convention in 2019 and a back-door approach to stripping away benefits. On Election Day, the Con Con was defeated by a wide margin with 80 percent voting against the measure.
We have been working in New Jersey to enhance the Professional Firefighters of New Jersey’s online and state-wide presence and to illustrate the value of being a member of the IAFF to increase buy-in from locals across the state.
These are just a few examples of the dozens and dozens of campaigns we have assisted with over the last two years and of the outstanding work of our Communications and Media Department.
In other strategic initiatives, we have been working to help all affiliates strengthen their communication and interaction with members and stakeholders through training that provides guidance for leaders. These efforts also coincide with cases heard by the Supreme Court, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association and its successor, Janus v. AFSCME Local 31. Both cases will require leaders to continuously show their value to members to ensure member engagement.
The focus on strengthening leaders and engaging members became the genesis for a strategic initiative in Georgia to increase membership. Since summer 2016, 12th District Vice President Larry Osborne and his successor, Walt Dix, paired service representatives with organizing experience and IAFF staff to increase member communication and mentor leaders. The teams conduct station visits and talk to potential members about the importance of joining the IAFF.
To date, we have increased membership in Atlanta Local 134, Savannah Local 574, Cherokee County Local 4047 and Fulton County Local 3920. In addition, Henry County Local 4052 has re-affiliated, bringing 83 members into the IAFF. Cobb County Local 2563 has experienced the most growth this year, more than doubling in size. In just two years, membership in the state increased more than 30 percent. See the chart below for more.
The success of our efforts in Georgia has led to similar initiatives in North Carolina and South Carolina, and we are already seeing results. In North Carolina membership is growing by eight percent, and it is also increasing in South Carolina.
We are also assisting with similar smaller initiatives at the local level for Dallas, TX Local 58 and St. Louis, MO Local 73.
|Georgia Strategic Initiative (6/1/2016-4/1/2018)|
|Local||Strength||Starting #||Current #||+/-|
|Atlanta Local 134||1080||440||586||+146|
|Savannah-Pooler Local 574||380||214||275||+61|
|Cherokee County Local 4047||296||37||94||+57|
|Henry County Local 4052||250||0||83||+83|
|Cobb County Local 2563||635||47||133||+86|
|DeKalb County Local 1492||630||103||121||+18|
|Fulton County Local 3920||150||24||47||+23|
|Augusta Local 3357||340||138||146||+8|
|Athens Local 2795||180||50||42||-8|
|Smyrna Local 5030||75||27||21||-6|
|Valdosta Local 1416||115||4||19||+15|
|Carrollton Local 3335||65||23||26||+3|
|Thomasville Local 2084||42||11||17||+6|
|Paulding County Local 5008||140||9||9||–|
|Forsyth County Local 4230||156||14||13||-1|
|Coweta County Local 4578||160||25||25||–|
In addition to the strategic assistance we provide to affiliates, we make other resources available to help locals generate increased public awareness and goodwill in their own communities, including support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and MDA Fill-the-Boot campaigns.
Delegates at the IAFF Convention in 2010 passed a resolution supporting Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we have continued to encourage participation, as well as conduct the annual Best Pink T-shirt for Breast Cancer Awareness Contest. The winner receives a free registration to the Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS) and exposure on social media, our website and in the magazine. Throughout October, we also showcase affiliates’ Breast Cancer Awareness Month photos and press coverage on social media.
Working with IAFF-MDA Coordinator Roger Lopez of San Antonio, TX Local 624 and MDA staff, we have developed strategies for enhancing affiliates’ efforts in support of MDA, including holding workshops at ALTS, promoting the value of participating in MDA campaigns through social media and other internal communications and providing online resources for affiliates to use in their MDA campaign work. To encourage greater participation in MDA Fill the Boot drives, we worked with E-18 Media to produce a series of short video testimonials from affiliate leaders about why it’s important to support MDA.
Our Communications and Media Department also manages the annual Media Awards Contest, which recognizes affiliates’ internal and external communications programs and honors reporting and photography that best portray the work that our members do every day in communities across the United States and Canada. The contest has been an effective tool for building relationships with reporters and media outlets.
A major component of our communications work is to market the union’s programs and services. Over the last two years, we developed a marketing plan to educate our leaders and members about the IAFF Center of Excellence for Behavioral Health Treatment and Recovery using all our communications channels to promote the Center, including the magazine, email blasts, website, infographics, social media messaging, video and IAFF events. In preparation for the grand opening on March 5, 2017, we worked with Advanced Recovery Systems (ARS) to create an invitation and accompanying materials for affiliate presidents, including web banners and flyers that can be posted online or in union halls and firehouses, and information for EAPs and HR directors to make sure treatment is covered by insurance. Efforts to promote the Center of Excellence are ongoing and include video testimonials, original content and Facebook advertising.
Recognizing that cancer is one of the biggest issues facing the fire service, the Communications and Media Department also works extensively with the Health and Safety Division to promote resources for cancer awareness, prevention and treatment, including the IAFF Cancer Summit in 2018 and information about GPS Cancer, a new technology for diagnosing and treating cancer.
We provided significant support during a series of disasters, such as hurricanes, active shooter incidents and wildfires to report on our members’ response and to ensure those who were affected had the resources they needed, such as financial relief or other assistance (food, clothing, medical screenings, etc.) and behavioral health counseling through our peer support program.
The IAFF has held several FIRE OPS 101 events in the last two years, and the Communication and Media Department assisted in covering each event through social media. The staff conducted interviews with participants for videos produced by E-18 Media. Social media has been very effective for the IAFF and affiliates in creating awareness for FIRE OPS and what it takes to be a professional fire fighter. The success of these events and the value to both lawmakers and public safety is apparent as participants return home to their offices with a greater understanding of fire fighter staffing and resource needs.
One of the biggest projects over the last year has been planning for our 100th anniversary. With the theme, “A Century of Progress Through Unity,” our centennial provides a unique opportunity to recognize and promote this union’s role in shaping this great profession.
Events and activities throughout the year have included an anniversary celebration on February 28, 2018, to recreate the photo taken of delegates at the first IAFF Convention in Washington, DC. Representatives from many of the 63 locals affiliated with the AFL on February 28, 1918, attended the event, which was broadcast live on Facebook. At the same time, affiliates across the United States and Canada participated at the local level with “Tones Across the IAFF” by striking emergency tones and reading a centennial message to all fire stations. IAFF leaders attending the February 28 event received a commemorative booklet containing a challenge coin, original IAFF charter and special centennial message. Every local president also received the booklet via mail.
At our 2018 Convention, we’ll be celebrating our anniversary with a premier event, the IAFF 100th anniversary Gold and Black Gala, on the final night of the week-long Convention. The gala is a major fundraiser for the IAFF Foundation and is supported by sponsorships available to corporate friends and affiliates at numerous contribution levels from $5,000 to $100,000. Sponsors each receive an ad in our Centennial History Album, which includes highlights of the past 100 years.
Also as part of our centennial activities, we have launched a $100 for 100 Years campaign to benefit the IAFF Foundation and have asked every member to donate $100 in 2018. Each member who donates $100 receives an exclusive 100th anniversary lapel pin.
Other anniversary mementos and merchandise, including a centennial challenge coin, are available through the IAFF Store. In addition, our 54th Convention features an exhibit showcasing events, items and activities from throughout our history such as magazine covers and many of the original cartoons published in the magazine depicting issues and trends affecting the union and the profession, especially in the early days of the IAFF.
Information Systems and Database Administration.
The staff in our Information Systems, Web Operations and Database Administration Department report to Jeff Zack, and at the direction of Dave Bernard, the director of Network and IS support and Web Operations, and Carmen Gloukhoff, the Director of Database Administration. The team also has three technical, two database and one web development specialist who report under these two directors.
For our business continuity plan, we have switched from Axcient software and offsite storage to StorageCraft, a well-known product. We purchased a new storage device to house the local backups, which synchronize with the StorageCraft datacenter for offsite storage and recovery. This system works differently than Axcient, which used to back up the servers and synchronize overnight and backup hundreds of GBs of data. It could not send that much data overnight, so the data transfer would fail on a weekly basis, and we would constantly send the data via snail mail on an external hard drive. Once StorageCraft has its first complete backup, it does continuous backups every 15 minutes then sends that much smaller amount of data as soon as it’s backed up. It does this individually for each server in parallel.
This new solution dramatically reduces the time it takes to get IAFF data offsite to the secure facility. Critical IAFF servers are backed up every 15 minutes and sent to the cloud. With this procedure, the amount of data in that 15-minute period is very small and can be transferred quickly. It also gives us a timely recovery point. The same data is also stored locally on a device in the IAFF server room for instant file recovery, if needed. Several other features are part of the Shadow Control software from StorageCraft. They include the ability to remotely monitor the servers protected by the software, the use of policies that reduce set-up time when new servers are created, a single console to give us a global view of all aspects of the environment and configurable alerts to help control false positive notifications so we only receive alerts for the items we want.
We worked closely with E-18 Media to develop its website and created a web server running Microsoft’s Internet Information Services (IIS) and a global DNS entry so that anyone from the outside who searches or enters the address http://e18media.com in a browser is directed to our servers. We continue to work with E-18 Media to help staff update the website without involving IT staff.
The decision has been made to move away from our custom-written content management system (CMS) to a more stable upgradable system. After some research, we chose to go with WordPress, a well-known CMS that can be customized for each website, and we are currently under construction. We used WordPress for a few of our smaller satellite sites to gain experience. We also rewrote the IAFF Financial Corporation (IAFF-FC) and IAFF Foundation websites and developed the IAFF Convention site using WordPress.
IAFF Frontline App
After launching our app four years ago, we have been refining and testing it. The most valuable lesson learned from focus groups about the IAFF Frontline App is that officers and members mainly use it while at IAFF events. We took that information and redesigned the app to enhance that functionality. We wanted an interface that would not require training and menus that were clear and would take users directly to the information they needed. We added event features – such as speaker bios, the ability to find rooms with an interactive map, easy access to the presentations and a “connect” feature that allows attendees to message one another via the app.
We also enhanced the push notifications to display the notification as an email of HTML content with one click. Users can also save the notifications for later reference. Attendees at events can receive their event certificates on the app and can email or print it, based on their preference.
The app is also integrated with our membership database and pulls event information directly from that database so setting up an event on the app is easy. The app keeps a record of past events so there is a history of events and the names of attendees a list of what classes each attendee took and the handouts for those classes. The app updates every five minutes so any new information entered into the IAFF membership database is seamlessly delivered to the app automatically.
This version of the app works on iPhones, iPads, Android devices and newer Blackberries running the Android software.
One of the recommendations from our most recent security audit was to find a monitoring software package for the IAFF servers. Previously, we had to log in to each server individually and check application and systems logs to look for potential problems. A simple, disk-sized monitoring software did not monitor logs or applications running on each server. The new solution, a SolarWinds product called Server Application Monitor (SAM), can monitor server processes including disk space, network traffic and system logs, memory usage and processor utilization. It also monitors applications running on each server including websites, SQL databases and the Exchange server. We spent a few months configuring the software for our custom applications, and now the software notifies us of potential problems before they occur so that we can resolve them without incident.
With the decision to move to a cloud-based environment, we chose Microsoft’s Office 365 for our email and calendar system because of its functionality and it offered a clean transition from our old Microsoft Office platform. Office 365 offers other products in its subscription, such as Skype for Business, SharePoint, Planner and Teams. All staff have made the transition to Office 365, which offers more storage capacity and provides all of Microsoft’s updates. Training on the effective use of the capabilities of Office 365 is pending.
Enterprise Software and Hardware Upgrades
Both the Citrix and VMware servers are more than six years old, so it was time to refresh the hardware. The VMware servers were using just about all the RAM they had and were starting to slow down. The Citrix servers did not have powerful enough processors to handle the virtual environment. We were experiencing video playback issues and performance issues in the virtual desktop environment. Instead of traditional servers we chose Blade servers which have many advantages. The servers slide into a chassis and do not have any hard drives. The operating system is stored on flash cards so if one goes bad we just replace it with a new one and install the flash cards. The chassis handles all the connections to the Storage Area Network (SAN) so the servers do not need network cards. The chassis can manage fiber and 10 GB over ethernet connections. Even with the eventual move to the Cloud, we’ll still need to keep an onsite presence, and this hardware supports that.
We also built a new Citrix and VMware environment with the latest versions and patches. We migrated the VMware servers and all the virtual Windows servers to the new environment without any downtime and shut down the older physical servers. Administration for the new virtual system is web based and can be accessed from any computer. As of now, we have locked it down so it can only be accessed in the office. The Citrix environment was created with Windows 10 and is being used by staff who have a Citrix desktop. We also use the Citrix system to publish Enterprise applications such as our membership program. Using this dramatically reduces administration of the program. When an upgrade is scheduled, we only have to upgrade the application on the two Citrix servers, whereas in the past we had to go to each individual computer.
Working with the budget and finance department, we created a new Windows 2012 server that hosts the newest version of Microsoft Dynamics (formerly Great Plains) accounting software. After creating the virtual server, we installed SQL 2014 as the backend database. Our Microsoft Dynamics consultant had secure remote access to the server for configuring and preparing the server for implementation. As part of the upgrade, we also upgraded the ReqLogic Purchase Order system and provided secure remote access to that server for the ReqLogic consultants to make the proper configuration changes.
Recurring Donations for the IAFF Foundation
We upgraded iDonate, the application for creating online giving pages, to create an option for recurring donations. The application uses a BluePay gateway which automatically handles processing of the scheduled donations once they are set up and writes the records back to iMIS.
Solution for Quick FIREPAC Contributions
We worked with the political action department to create and implement a portable way to quickly accept and process FIREPAC donations in person at events. The solution needed to verify membership, pull the prospective contributor’s record and accept data from a credit card swipe as quickly as possible. The application was developed and rolled out successfully in January 2018 at the Affiliate Leadership Training Summit (ALTS).
We have implemented Google Translate on portions of our site that allow for online registration for events and classes, enabling our estimated 250 events and classes each year to be translated into French for our Quebec members.
LODD Database Conversion and Application
The application that accepts LODD submissions was replaced in February 2018 with a new application written to work off the iMIS/RISE platform. Along with this project we mapped and implemented a database conversion to bring existing data into iMIS with as little duplication as possible. Our database administration department worked with the health and safety division on this project.
The System Management Active Response Technology (IAFF SMART) database and iMIS database are now integrated with bi-directional data transfers happening every few minutes on key data fields. The hosted SMART database has received 650,000 of our current and former member records, which were imported into the customized SMART platform. Each time a change happens in either system, data is sent to the other and processed in accordance to each system’s business rules. Record logging has been established to monitor traffic and data infractions as they occur.
We modified the convention credentials application to allow guests to be added by registered delegates or alternates after registration is completed and after the Monday 5:00 pm deadline (after which the Roll Call book is printed). Delegates and alternates must register and pay for their guests before a badge is printed. In previous years, non-paying onsite guest badges have not always been processed through iMIS. Now that all guest badges will require payment, we’ll have more accurate counts which will help the conference and event planning department gain a better estimate for food and beverage orders. Other enhancements include automation of emailed event rosters, formerly handled by staff, that board members, trustees, candidates and staff receive throughout the registration period.
In addition, we scheduled automated emails to target affiliate leaders who met the following criteria:
- Started the credentialing process but did not submit
- Delegates submitted for approval but no action taken by second officer
- Credentialed delegates whose locals owe per cap
- Credentialed delegates who have not registered (paid)
- Credentialed delegates who have not registered (paid) – treasurer of local
Moodle Upgrade and Integration
Our database administration department has been working with the HazMat and instructional design departments to establish the Moodle integration with iMIS. We currently are working on providing courses that need to be made available in the new registration process which will require that students register in iMIS prior to being allowed access to a course.
Political Training Academy Application
The application for the political training academy has previously been recorded in a database apart from iMIS. For the 2018 political training academy, we collaborated with the political action department to create a new form for writing data to iMIS. The data will be used to update event registration for the event, which will also be tracked in iMIS, with the applicants who are selected. This data can in turn be used on the IAFF Frontline app as is the case for other events.
Action Network and Email Collection
The database team imports membership data into Action Network, our email communications program, including monthly imports for members for whom we have email addresses. Currently, we have emails for 60 percent of our members.
Member Status Change
We created a new form to allow for member changes online using iMIS RISE tools to write data back to the database. Data is held in a holding table and then reviewed by the membership department, which then updates the record as appropriate.
FIREPAC Check Off Import Data Match Up Application
Our FIREPAC Check Off data is received in disparate formats from locals and payroll departments. Rarely do these files include the IAFF member ID number, which is necessary to map data to the correct record. We worked with the Political Action and Membership Departments to identify ways to streamline this process. We created a program that imports these files and maps contribution records to the correct IAFF member ID based on contributor names within a local. This program has significantly reduced the amount of time needed to create the FIREPAC Check Off import files which were done manually in the past.
Redmond Symposium/EMS Conference CEU Tracking
At the 2017 Redmond Symposium and EMS Conference, some classes were eligible for continuing education units. We recorded these specific classes, and attendees who wanted to receive credit had their badges scanned at their workshops. The scanner data is imported into iMIS to identify attendees (as opposed to registrants) who should receive credits.
New Member Intake Form
We replaced our new member form with one that writes data to iMIS, eliminating the need for membership department staff to re-key data and save source documentation, as was previously necessary. All changes are automatically tracked to the change log.
Wall of Honor
Until recently, the Wall of Honor database was a static page, calling for manual updates every time an addition was made. Database administration staff have created a page that pulls this data directly from iMIS, working closely with staff from the health and safety division on this project.
IAFF Mobile App/Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial
For the 2018 Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial, we are working with the health and safety division to create functionality on the IAFF Frontline app to allow for look-up of the location of names inscribed on the Wall of Honor, similar to the functionality on the Vietnam War Memorial app, which allows people to find their loved ones on the wall. Data currently exists in multiple locations, and we’re in the process of defining where to store and move this data so that the app has a consistent reliable place to find it and so that staff can more efficiently query data.
AutoDraft for Per Cap
Our database administration department assisted the membership department to implement AutoDraft for per cap payments, which is now live. The benefits include:
- Payment data is recorded directly to the IAFF database.
- Automation of monthly bank drafts for locals who sign up in the United States and Canada.
Exhibitors and Sponsors
For the first time, exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities have been made available for online registration with the data writing directly to iMIS. We collaborated with the conference and events, communications and finance departments on this effort.
Communications Training Academy 2017
We created an online form for Communications Training Academy applicants. This is the first time that this data is kept in iMIS and will make referencing past history possible.
Every two years, we upgrade iMIS/RISE to its latest stable version. This upgrade was accomplished in December 2017 and included improvements to latency issues and enhanced PCI compliance.
IAFF Frontline App
With the transition to the new IAFF Frontline App, it now uses the data we have in iMIS. Using an on-the-shelf software package rather than a completely custom app has several advantages including the ability to made upgrades and allowing us to focus on utilization of the app, not its development.
The new app is streamlined, focusing on IAFF events (schedules, maps, speaker bios, exhibitors) and iMIS data queries. Since the data is pulled from iMIS, push notification targets will no longer need to be imported when needed as the data will already be there. Future capabilities include the ability for members to update their own contact information.
Magazine Renewal Email
We have established and improved automated magazine renewal reminders to alumni. The reminders are sent on the first business day of the month to those whose subscriptions will expire within two months (alumni receive two reminders). Additionally, the email now contains their username and login instructions for logging in and payment.
All events and instructor-led trainings are tracked in iMIS:
- Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial
- Affiliate Leadership Training Summit
- Human Relations Conference
- Redmond Symposium/EMS Conference
- U.S. Legislative Conference
- Canadian Legislative Conference
- IAFF Motorcycle Group Rally
- Instructor Development Conference
- FIREPAC Reception (held at Convention)
- Board Meetings
- IAFF Foundation Gala (held at Convention)
- Instructor-led Training
- HazMat (about 300 per year)
- Fire Ground Survival
- Peer Fitness Trainer
- Partnership Education Program (PEP) Seminars
Our IAFF Alumni Coordinator, Katie Shelton, works under the direction of Jeff Zack. The alumni program is for retired IAFF members. Active-retired members are automatically members of the alumni, and most former IAFF members with an inactive-retired membership status are eligible to participate if they retired or left their local in good standing.
The year 2018 marks the 10th anniversary of the alumni program. During the past decade, we have mailed more than 75,000 welcome postcards, which provide instructions on how to register online at their discretion. Approximately 30 percent of retirees who received this postcard completed their registration.
The steady increase in registrations demonstrates the interest of continuing IAFF membership after retirement. Once a member’s status is recorded in our database as retired, he/she is sent a postcard about the IAFF alumni. Membership is at the discretion of the local for former members who withdraw from their local for reasons that include a promotion.
By registering online, emails are captured in our database and used for marketing purposes (such as email blasts) to promote benefits associated with alumni membership including products available through the IAFF Financial Corporation (IAFF-FC), discounts from Union Plus and Fire Fighter Quarterly subscriptions. Currently, we have collected almost 36,000 Alumni emails, 20 percent of the emails in the IAFF database overall.
Alumni membership is now at 46,000, an increase of 4,000 members since the 2016 convention. Dues-paying, active-retired members make up 64 percent versus 36 percent for inactive-retired former members.
We implemented several strategic efforts to continue to increase membership, including a consistent presence at IAFF events that provide an opportunity to engage affiliate leaders about the alumni program and raise awareness with promotional giveaways such as travel mugs, coasters, key chains, pens and alumni decals). This face-to-face communication gives our leadership a better understanding of inactive and active retiree membership and is vital for the continued growth of this program.
Our marketing materials include a pdf of information for affiliates to post at the local level on their websites or distribute to prospective alumni members at state and local meetings.
In February 2017, we began an email campaign to alumni promoting the list of benefits offered through Alumni membership to inactive-retired alumni, as well as all active-retired members. It has proved effective in attracting members to the alumni program.
New inactive-retired alumni members have the option to subscribe to the Fire Fighter Quarterly once they have completed their online registration. A renewal notice is emailed prior to the expiration of their subscription each year. Additionally, in 2017, we began sending email blasts every six months to those inactive-retired alumni who are not currently subscribed. Because of these blasts, subscriptions have significantly increased. There are currently 1,020 inactive-retired alumni subscribed to the magazine. This is the highest number of contributions since the program began.
With just two subscription email blasts, 265 alumni paid $7.50 each for a profit last year of $1,988. This shows that the additional marketing efforts for subscription sales have been effective.
Approximately 2,000 new inactive-retired members join the alumni each year, and that number continues to rise. Alumni indicate that the products and services the IAFF can provide after retiring are of great interest.
Total sales income for the alumni for the last two fiscal years is almost $12,000. These funds are from the sale of magazine subscriptions and alumni online store items. The subscription cost for alumni was increased to $9 in April 2018, and we expect to increase alumni income in the future.
Ongoing alumni initiatives include refreshing the IAFF alumni logo and website. The website is currently in the works and will provide further details on benefits for alumni members. We will also increase the volume of IAFF online store products and promotions when we unveil the new alumni logo. This rebranding will bring a positive, fresh look to the program as we move into the second decade of the IAFF Alumni program.
The International Fire Fighters Unions Alliance (IFFUA), known as the Global Alliance, has continued its communication efforts since the last convention in August 2016.
We invited our sister unions in the Global Alliance from the United Kingdom (FBU), Australia (UFUA) and New Zealand (NZPFU) to join us in August 2017 at the Redmond Symposium/EMS Conference. Participants took part in the general sessions, classes and an evening event to thank these Global Alliance partners for their ongoing support. We also conducted a meeting to discuss the future of our global relationship. All unions agreed to begin the development of an International Health and Safety Conference, with hopes of an event in 2019.
Over the past two years, our unions have communicated and assisted each other on several issues that have benefited our members across the world. Most recently, the FBU invited me to speak at its centennial.
FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack was invited to attend the 54th Convention in Seattle as our special guest speaker.
The IAFF and our Global Alliance partners will continue to work together and share information to raise awareness and review policy that has a positive effect on the health and safety of fire fighters across the globe.