Streamlining permits and licensing management with Cityworks
The City of Kawartha Lakes Fire Department uses Cityworks to better manage permits, licensing and inspections.
“Taken together Cityworks enables the Department to achieve a more streamlined, clearer and scalable approach to permits and licensing,”
— Deputy Fire Chief Terry Jones.
Municipalities across the country are obligated to manage permits and licensing as well as perform inspections for various activities. At its core, managing permits and licensing is about managing information. Making that information easy to collect, track and access throughout the organization helps make the process more efficient, repeatable and scalable. This was the goal of the City of Kawartha Lakes’ Fire Department. To meet this goal, the Department chose Cityworks PLL.
The City of Kawartha Lakes is the second-largest single-tier municipality by land area in Ontario. The municipality is home to 75,000 permanent and 30,000 seasonal residents. In addition to residents, Kawartha Lakes receives nearly 1.4 million visitors per year.
The City’s Fire Department is responsible for 3.059 square kilometers with 20 fire stations located throughout the municipality. It has 16 full time fire suppression staff and 380 volunteer staff. The department is headed by one chief and two deputy chiefs.
As is the case with many other municipal organizations, the Kawartha Lakes Fire Department is obligated to enforce appropriate compliance with fire related permits and licensing. These include the following:
- Licensing – refreshment vehicles
- Compliance – smoke alarm program
- Permits – burns and fireworks
Each of these areas of responsibility is clearly important for ensuring the safety of residents and visitors. The Department is not only committed to fulfilling these responsibilities but improving their ability to do so. As such, they realized that Cityworks provided the functionality needed to streamline their permit and licensing management. Moreover, by switching to Cityworks, the Fire Department’s IT staff would be unburdened from managing the legacy system the Department previously used to conduct much of this work.
Refreshment vehicles, such as food vendors and ice cream trucks, in the City of Kawartha are subject to an annual licensing process that requires inspection by the Fire Department. Typically, the same owners and operators work in the same vehicles year over year. As such, the Department realized the licensing program was a great fit for Cityworks’ child case functionality. This would allow information to be repopulated where applicable rather than manually re-enter information each year into an approval letter, helping to speed up the process. Additionally, the municipalities’ Licensing Division has been given permissions within Cityworks that enable them to create saved searches to quickly and easily track their licensing activities and obligations.
Ensuring Compliance - Smoke Alarm Program
The Department is using Cityworks to confirm and record that homeowners and residents are compliant with legislation regarding smoke alarms. When there is an instance of non-compliance, a new case is automatically opened with an action for Fire Prevention staff to perform a follow up inspection. Cityworks also enables the Department to collect important metrics such as how many houses have been visited, which shifts and stations have been active and the number of domiciles that satisfy code requirements.
Two of the most important permits that the City of Kawartha’s Fire Department issues are fireworks permits and burn permits. Fireworks are regulated by Federal legislation and their compliance is ensured through permitting at the municipal level. The list of criteria that must be met for fireworks permits to be issued is extensive. Furthermore, there are dependencies among these criteria. For example, more powerful fireworks require more clearance than less powerful fireworks. It is crucial that information is collected accurately and thoroughly to ensure safety. To do so, the Department created a Fireworks permit Checklist using Cityworks. This checklist ensures that all information necessary for issuing a permit is collected in a complete, trackable and easily retrievable manner.
The Department is using a similar checklist for burn permits. This standardized and scalable format allows the department to more efficiently issue or refuse permits. “Some staff in certain locations may not be as familiar with bylaws as others,” notes Valerie Knights, Executive Assistant to the Fire Chief, “The checklist enables such staff to follow straightforward requirements when reviewing permit applications rather than spend time consulting with other staff or cross-referencing documents.” In this way, there is more clarity for staff with regards to burn permits. Furthermore, permits were previously limited to a single address, resulting in redundancy. With Cityworks, the Department now can issue a single permit for multiple addresses and make use of child cases for repeat permits without losing any information—indeed the information is now easier to access and more standardized.
Cityworks also helps the department facilitate payments and invoicing for permits. For example, a saved search enables staff to quickly retrieve information regarding outstanding payments. “The benefit of the saved search for pending permit invoice payments is that it gave us a central location for tracking outstanding payments, making it easier to send out follow-up notices,” notes Valerie Knights.
Beyond efficiency, Cityworks also helps the Department collaborate and share information between different parts of the organization, including administration, bylaw enforcement, dispatch and fire prevention. Indeed, the Department is using the GIS aspects of Cityworks to provide essential address information to dispatch, making it easier and faster for them to locate fires and locations where there are permits issued.
The Fire Department is required to carry out, record and track inspections. However, the Department found that using separate files stored on various individuals’ hard drives to manage inspections resulted in a limited ability to track and access information. “Prior to Cityworks, we were basically going to each other’s desk and going through those files to determine if an inspection was active at a particular address,” notes Kevin Meijerink, Fire Prevention Inspector. To make this process clearer and easier for all involved, the Department is now using Cityworks to record and track inspections.
The new Cityworks process gives administrative staff the ability to start a case and enter resident requests and complaints. This ability enables Fire Prevention Officers to easily and quickly assign tasks to the relevant staff members. Further, inspectors can record information in a standardized format using templated letters and forms. Nonetheless, should staff need to customize such letters and forms, they can export in a Word Doc format to do so. Similar to burn permit invoicing, a saved search allows this information to be easily retrieved by the appropriate staff.
Cityworks has enabled the Fire Department of Kawartha Lakes to successfully improve the management of their licensing, permit and inspection programs. Checklists allow staff to quickly and easily review criteria. Cases can be opened automatically based on preset criteria. Child cases allow information to be organized in a rational and intuitive manner. Saved searches provide clarity, helping staff to quickly retrieve information without having to consult colleagues or dig through files. Finally, Cityworks helps the Department share information between different parts of the organization. “Taken together Cityworks enables the Department to achieve a more streamlined, clearer and scalable approach to permits and licensing,” says Deputy Fire Chief Terry Jones.
To learn more about Cityworks, visit our website.