Google Cloud Results
1,625 volunteers access Google Workspace Frontline
• Supports easy communication with all fire service team members including
volunteers and employees, using Gmail, Chat, and Meet.
• Simplifies the administrative burden for the IT services team thanks to cloud-based tools and administrative console.
• Enables remote working with a platform that can be used from any location on any device.
"While we rely on specialized software for operational tasks such as managing availability or dispatch times, we also need a reliable platform that enables us to collaborate on support tasks. That's where Google Workspace comes in." -- Commander Sébastien Lacroix, Head of the Technical Services Division, SDIS 41
With numerous chateaux and other attractions such as the ZooParc de Beauval, the French administrative Département of Loir-et-Cher is best known for its cultural heritage, which attracts millions of visitors every year. But it's also home to important civil infrastructure, including roads, a high-speed railway, and natural gas storage facilities, as well as the Saint-Laurent nuclear power station. What all of these sites have in common is that they pose particular risks in terms of emergency services.
Overseeing the safety of these locations, along with that of the Département's 335,000 inhabitants, is the job of the region's fire department, le Service Départemental d'Incendie et de Secours de Loir-et-Cher (SDIS 41), headquartered in the historical city of Blois. SDIS 41 operates 80 emergency centers, which enable it to prevent and respond to fires, undertake emergency relief operations, and evaluate and prepare emergency response plans for potential risks. It has teams specialized in dealing with chemicals, radioactive materials, and animals, as well as providing emergency assistance to individuals, which makes up around 80% of its activities. Training is another key aspect, delivered through a dedicated training center.
To provide these services, SDIS 41 works with 202 professional firefighters and 1,625 volunteers, as well as a number of young trainees and former firefighters. Having himself signed up as a volunteer firefighter at the age of 16, Commander Sébastien Lacroix, Head of the Technical Services Division of SDIS 41, is passionate about the role volunteers have to play. "Like other fire departments in France, volunteers are a key part of our teams," he explains. "These are people from all kinds of professions who give up their spare time to help others, and we need to make sure they feel included in the team."
Previously, with the exception of emergency center leaders, volunteers did not have their own dedicated email addresses, which made it difficult to communicate with them directly. With the support of Google Cloud Partner Ageona, SDIS 41 extended its Google Workspace deployment to volunteers thanks to Google Workspace Frontline, enabling all its collaborators to communicate using a single ecosystem.
"While we rely on specialized software for operational tasks such as managing availability or dispatch times, we also need a reliable platform that enables us to collaborate on support tasks," says Commander Lacroix. "That's where Google Workspace comes in."
Finding a solution that meets the needs of frontline volunteers
In 2017, the Département of Loir-et-Cher's centralized administration migrated to Google Workspace, as did SDIS 41's 55 technical and administrative staff, and its professional firefighters. But as volunteers were not included in this deployment, the fire service had to rely on center leaders to communicate with them about any organizational questions. "With a structure like ours, where 80% of our labor force consists of volunteers, putting in place IT resources for the entire team presented a challenge, financially," explains Commander Lacroix.
As Google Workspace Frontline offers access to key collaboration and communication tools as well as 2 GB of storage per user at an accessible price, it's specifically tailored to the needs of frontline workers who do not require the same range of capabilities as permanent or office-based employees. "When Google Workspace Frontline became available, we saw it offered the technical functionality we need, at a cost that makes it viable for structures such as SDIS 41," says Commander Lacroix.
Google Cloud Partner Ageona helped SDIS 41 to undertake the initial migration to Google Workspace in 2017, providing ongoing support for any technical questions and helping with change management along the way. "Ageona are not just a service provider, they're a true partner, as they are always available and ready to adapt to our specific needs," says Gaël Yvon, Information and Communications Systems Manager at SDIS 41. "They brought a lot of enthusiasm and interesting ideas to the migration, helping to inspire our team members to embrace the new tools through webinars, in-person tutorials, a tailored communication plan, and even t-shirts."
Getting the job done with simple, intuitive tools
"When we switched to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, we already had all the tools we needed. We hadn't previously used video-conferencing, but we found Google Meet to be reliable and intuitive to use." -- Commander Sébastien Lacroix, Head of the Technical Services Division, SDIS 41
Since expanding its Workspace usage with Google Workspace Frontline a year ago, every SDIS 41 firefighter, whether professional or volunteer, now has access to a Gmail email address, and can use Chat and Meet to communicate. Teams also use Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides to share documents and information. Commander Lacroix particularly appreciates the way different parts of the Google Workspace ecosystem, such as Gmail, Calendar, Drive, and Meet, are connected and work together. "When we switched to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, we already had all the tools we needed," he recalls. "We hadn't previously used video-conferencing, but we found Google Meet to be reliable and intuitive to use."
According to Yvon, using Google Workspace has reduced the administrative burden for the Information and Communications Systems team, as it no longer has to manage any infrastructure to support the communications platform. "It's simpler from an administrative perspective, and the tools also help us to optimize all our everyday tasks," he says. "It's easy to share documents and keep data up-to-date, and we can work from any location or device."
Providing equal access for all, to support SDIS 41's civic mission
"Without Google Frontline Workspace, providing licenses for all our firefighters would have multiplied our annual costs by three or four times. We can put those resources into other projects instead." -- Commander Sébastien Lacroix, Head of the Technical Services Division, SDIS 41
Commander Lacroix believes that the most important aspect of the deployment is that it provides volunteers with equal access to collaborative tools, which means the contribution of every member of the team is valued. "Without Google Frontline Workspace, providing licenses for all our firefighters would have multiplied our annual costs by three or four times," says Commander Lacroix. "We can put those resources into other projects instead." Eventually, both Commander Lacroix and Yvon agree SDIS 41 may be able to further reduce its costs by eliminating third party software that replicates functionality that is now available through Google Workspace.
In the meantime, the next step for SDIS 41 is to develop its usage of shared drives, which will give it more control over file organization and access. "Using shared drives means when an individual leaves SDIS 41, we can be sure that we retain all the necessary files, and we will also be able to have greater control over sharing rights," says Commander Lacroix. He also hopes to develop more communal resources such as forums by integrating Workspace tools with LumApps to develop an intranet, and create a hybrid storage system by integrating Drive with SDIS 41's Network Attached Storage servers.
"We're delighted to be the first SDIS in France to use Google Workspace," says Commander Lacroix. "Google Workspace Frontline really adapts to the needs of our volunteer fire-fighters, which in turn is helping us to carry out our civic mission."
*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.