4 Types of Data Every Fire Department Should Be Collecting
Today’s fire industry continues to evolve to better incorporate a wide range of data available from both incident response and department operations. Going beyond the reactive mode of simply responding to whatever call comes in on any given day, departments are now proactively collecting, storing, and processing data to create more efficient departments and, in turn, safer communities. Real-world information can help form better operational procedures, ensure adequate staffing, plan more effective training, and even improve fire prevention in the community itself.
RMS Makes Data Collection More Efficient
In a recent nationwide survey by the NFPA, fire agencies reported that they are increasingly collecting and data that goes above and beyond what is collected by the NFIRS, and that this data is helpful in making real-time decisions in daily operations of their agencies. The majority of the fire departments in the survey maintained their records in an enterprise Records Management System (RMS), making it easier to record, access, and analyze their department data. Today’s top RMS software, like ESO Fire RMS, has been designed specifically for the fire industry and incorporates features like support of +1 codes, integration across products, cloud-based storage, and automatic submission features for state reporting requirements.
Utilizing a digital RMS for your fire department simplifies inputting, storing, and accessing a wide range of data on your department, including: personnel management, incidents, properties, inspections, asset management, training, scheduling, and more. Not only is it faster to input this data when using a common interface, but it’s easy to access the information from anywhere and at anytime, helping you keep your department in compliance with reporting requirements from state and national organizations.
Closer to home, these data points can help you identify trends such as your most common calls and your busiest times of the year, as well as areas of strength or weakness. Easily accessible reports also makes it simpler to see how your team is operating, submit more detailed grant applications, create efficient QI projects, and even share top takeaways with your local government, media, and members of the community.
Fire RMS tools typically help departments gather operational information in four key areas. Whether you are using this information to look back at past performance, or are looking for ways to improve response in the future, this full view of your department and community is extremely helpful in ensuring your success and making the most efficient use of your resources. The four key areas include:
1. Incident Response
This is the most basic information that gives you the most straightforward view of what your department faces on a daily basis. What are your most common calls? How is your team performing when the call comes in? You can set key benchmarks to review, such as how long it takes you to arrive, most common types of equipment needed, what type of medical response is most often provided on scene. The list of variables you can review is endless, giving you a detailed picture of not only how your team is performing, but what things can be done to be better prepared and reduce risk.
Incident data is also helpful in comparing your department to both national benchmarks and to the operations of your peers. It can be interesting to review reports such as the Fire Service Index to see how your department compares with others across the nation. This can help you learn from others’ challenges and successes, as well as see where your own department exceeds or trails behind in response operations.
2. Community Risk Reduction
Once you have a good picture of your most common calls, you can divide up that view by areas of your community to help form your next CRR program. Perhaps one part of your city seems to have a disproportionate number of fire emergencies, and you want to plan an educational outreach program promoting fire safety for families. You can also use this data to identify areas that might benefit from a free fire alarm and installation program. Your data can also help you ensure that the fire hydrants in your busiest areas – and all areas for that matter – are up to code and current on inspections.
If you serve and urban or quickly growing area, you might be facing a substantial amount of new construction, renovations, or commercial properties. You can use your RMS to store and track helpful information on the properties you inspect – such as hazardous materials, entrance and exit points, and even photos from the site – that help form better incident response plans during emergencies. Additionally, properly tracking and being alerted of expiring permits or inspections can help you proactively keep your community safer by reducing the risk of fire emergencies in the future.
3. Health and Wellness
Back at the fire station, it’s important to keep your team healthy, well-trained, and ready for response. Your RMS tool can help you more easily track a wide range of personnel data, from training hours, to vaccinations, to records of incidents like exposure to hazardous materials. This information can help you ensure that you are not only staying in compliance but that you are proactively aware of potential needs of your team.
Recent studies show that first responders are disproportionately at risk for PTSD and its related negative effects, including suicide. Some departments are working to make more resources available to team members who have recently been exposed to a high number of traumatic calls, even using their RMS tools to set a threshold to alert an officer when a team member might be at risk. Similarly, fire fighters are at a higher risk for certain types of cancer, presumably due to exposure to hazardous materials during response and clean up. Your personnel tool can help you track exposure, and help your team take preventative health care measures as needed.
Keeping a fire station operating at top efficiency takes some work, with many moving parts. Whether you are needing to prove compliance with state or local regulations, meet reporting deadlines for various organizations, plan your budget requests for the upcoming year, or simply ensure that your equipment is adequate and operational – data is your biggest weapon. By utilizing an RMS with features like checklists, analytic tools, and asset management modules, you can spend less time crunching numbers and more time making plans for improvement and response.
Not only does a thorough insight into your operations ensure you are meeting basic needs and prepared for the months and years to come, it frees you up to make proactive improvements, such as QI projects or specialized training events for your team. Your operations data also helps you identify your needs and back it up with real-world data, making any argument for additional staff or equipment undeniable. Many grant applications also require a report on specific operating data over an extended period of time; a digital RMS gives you this information at your fingertips.
Just like for commercial businesses, data plays a huge role in the success of a fire department. Today, using the right tools, it can be easier than ever to ensure your department is operating at full efficiency today and is ready for the future. A more informed fire department drives better decisions, resulting in a better-trained staff, a fully prepared operation, and, in turn, a safer community.
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