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Pandemic response forces fire departments to seek digital solutions

As the novel coronavirus closes down schools and businesses around the country, essential first responders and firefighters on the front lines of relief efforts have embraced digital communication and data-sharing software to stay safe and efficient, according to several local fire chiefs. The pandemic, according to Dan Munsey, the fire chief of San Bernardino Fire and Emergency Medical Services in San Bernardino, California, is forcing the firefighting industry to innovate faster than it’s ever had to before, especially for logistics and communication. “Right now, we’re facing serious fiscal challenges, we’re having our operational capabilities challenged, and frankly we’re facing strategy [troubles]," Munsey said. One way that firefighters are responding to resource shortages is by sharing inventory data with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, which has set up several daily surveys for local departments to share information about equipment shortages and the number of cases they’re recording locally. The data feeds into data dashboards that departments can use to visualize where outbreaks are occurring and what kinds of equipment they need. Ryan Johnston reports.

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State IT and the emergency relief act

The $2 trillion bill Congress passed last week to provide emergency relief in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic contains several provisions that could address technology issues facing state governments as they work through the public health crisis. Much of the money is directed toward bailing out major industries and small businesses, extending unemployment insurance and providing one-time direct cash payments to individuals and families, but some portions of the legislation could tackle states’ IT needs, including provisions for expanded broadband grants, a one-year delay for the Real ID program and an additional $400 million for election administration. Benjamin Freed reports.

Colorado updates smartphone app for COVID-19

The Colorado Office of Information Technology said Friday it’s added new features to myColorado, the state government’s mobile app, reflecting the measures the state has taken in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. OIT said the app was expanded to keep residents connected to government services while most public-facing agency offices are closed. Other states and local governments have also nudging their residents toward digital services in hopes of encouraging social distancing, like Hawaii, which has ramped up public relations efforts behind the 100-plus digital services the state offers online Ben has more.

NLC, Bloomberg Philanthropies launch coronavirus action tracker

The National League of Cities and Bloomberg Philanthropies this week published a Google spreadsheet listing efforts local governments have put into slowing the spread of COVID-19. As of last Friday, dozens of cities had enacted more than 534 emergency measures to slow the spread of the virus, according to the spreadsheet, which also includes the contact information of city officials next to each policy change. Bloomberg Philanthropies said the plan is to eventually replace the Google document with a more user-friendly tool that can be used to view the data. Ryan has more.

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