A Locally Founded App Is Helping First Responders With Essential Data

Bedford Hills-based firefighter Michael Heifetz founded Data Chief to provide information to first responders.

Every second during an emergency is critical for Bedford Hills firefighter Michael Heifetz. The 2010 graduate of Fox Lane High School witnessed an essential information gap that first responders face during emergency situations. With 12 years of volunteer firefighting experience under his belt, Heifetz is on solid ground when he declares: “First responders often know next to nothing about the place they’re responding to.”

After discussing the problem with community members and various fire departments, Heifetz created an outline for a solution that would address some of these concerns. The end result was called Data Chief, a Bedford Hills-based database tech company launched in 2015 that collected, processed, and organized vital site-specific data that could support agencies during emergency situations.

Heifetz explains that before creating Data Chief, emergency responders used programs like Google Maps and Zillow to retrieve property details. Unfortunately, these programs lack occupancy information. Through Data Chief, communities voluntarily signed up for the service and provided important information to the platform, which is used by emergency-services organizations.

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Data Chief Facts

Year incorporated: 2015

Serves: Westchester and NYC, with plans to expand to Dutchess, Putnam, LI, and DC

How does it work? The community can sign up online or by mail and provide key information to the database that they want emergency responders to know.

Who pays for it? The service is free of charge to residents and is provided through various local fire, EMT, and police agencies, which pay for access to the system

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Some of the information gathered includes whether a home has an elderly person, someone with special needs, or pets as well as details pertaining to the structure of the home or the property, including where gas lines and hydrants are located, roof material, and the size of the home. Data Chief’s service, says Heifetz, “really resonates in a place like Westchester.”

In June, Data Chief was acquired by NYC-based First Due Size Up, a pre-incident, planning-and-mobile-response software company. Heifetz says, “This deal combines Data Chief’s experience in the area with First Due’s nationally established platform.”

Data Chief has worked with several agencies in the county and the program’s success has driven other fire departments in Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess to budget for the program. Pound Ridge has been using the system since its inception. “It’s a phenomenal service,” according to Pound Ridge Fire Chief Justin Brent, who says the service brings “vital information we have to help many in our community.” Brent adds that the town, fire and police departments, and EMS spent $17,000 initially on the service.

Brent had new computer screens installed in the Pound Ridge dispatch rooms to use the data. There will also be a system that, by tracking power outages, would dispatch first responders to places where electricity is needed for medical equipment. “It’s the information that first-responder firefighters want to know,” says Heifetz, “and it’s the same information residents want their first responders to know.”

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