BMFD encourages use of Community Connect preparedness and response system

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
James Bingham, battalion chief with the Black Mountain Fire Department, said Community Connect allows for a safer community.

Serving 50.8 square miles, including Montreat to Ridgecrest, the Black Mountain Fire Department has its hands full. 

Black Mountain Community Connect was first made available to municipalities in 2020, according to Battalion Chief James Bingham. When interim Fire Chief John Coffey arrived at BMFD, he encouraged the department to utilize the system. 

"It's simple," Bingham said. "You go in, create a profile. For us, it helps us tremendously. The more we know, the better off our customers are."

Residents who create a profile on Community Connect enter valuable information to the online system which can be helpful in an emergency. Information includes layout and pertinent areas of property, residents of the home, pets, needs and contact information.

Bingham said providing this information can be particularly helpful if a residence has functional needs such as non-ambulatory residents.

"This free, secure and user-friendly platform allows you to share crucial information in and around your home or business that will aid emergency personnel who are responding to your location," says a statement from the town staff. "This tool enables us the ability to more effectively mitigate any situation presented."

When the fire department receives a call, if the property is registered on Community Connect, a display screen in the firehouse provides emergency personnel with all pertinent information. Especially for high-hazard areas, Bingham said having a pre-plan of the property can be helpful.

"It gives us an idea of our offensive strategy," Bingham said. "It gives us an idea of where to start looking."

Since the department began utilizing Community Connect in April, 10 residents have created profiles. Bingham said the department has begun using social media, QR codes on fire vehicles and flyers to spread the word.

Given the range of the Black Mountain department as well as the variety of calls it receives, having a pre-plan and profile of residents and properties helps streamline emergency crew response, allowing for safer community, according to Bingham. From removing snakes to search and rescue, hazmat and fire, he said the department's knowledge base has to be broad to effectively do the job.

"People don't realize what all we do," Bingham said. "You call 911. You know who they call if they don't know who to call? The fire department."

Households and businesses are encouraged to explore Community Connect. For more information, visit www.communityconnect.io/info/nc-blackmountain.

Ezra Maille covers the town of Black Mountain, Montreat and the Swannanoa Valley. Reach him at 828-230-3324 or emaille@blackmountainnews.com. Please support local journalism with access to more breaking news by subscribing.