A Look at Data-Driven Decisions for Fire Depts. – Part 1

  • Posted on April 25, 2018

As a fire department, are you effective? Are you making defensible decisions for things like staffing, operations, budget? If you answered yes, Jason Hathcock and Frank Blackley challenge you to prove it. (And if you said no or you’re not sure, keep reading anyway.)

Hathcock, a Captain with the Fayetteville (NC) Fire/Emergency Management Dept., joined Frank Blackley at ESO’s Wave 2018 Conference to share key considerations to help fire departments use data to drive decisions. We will be offering the highlights in a four part blog series over the next few weeks.

In this series we will review key components to ensuring you’re a data-driven organization: 

  1. Getting Started
  2. Setting Expectations
  3. Data Standards
  4. A Different Approach to Data

To begin, here are some key items to get you started. 

Surveys of internal and external stakeholders: “You need to know what they think about you,” said Hathcock. “As part of the accreditation model, we need honest feedback, we need to know what people think about the services we provide if we want to get better. Surveys are a great way to get that information.”

Workload indicators: “What are we doing with our time?” asked Blackley. “Playing checkers? That’s what the public thinks.” Solid recordkeeping, analysis, and reporting on workload will provide the data your department needs to justify requests for additional staffing — or simply to defend current staffing levels.

Program evaluations: Virtually all fire organizations have internal programs. How is your department evaluating those programs? “I don’t mean just sitting down talking about them; you’ve got a formal appraisal in place,” Hathcock said. “You sit down, you have conversations, you’re looking at data, qualitative and quantitative, to make those programs better for your community.”

Communicating & building relationships: Hathcock describes a time when the department’s communication division had some improvements to make, including an alarm handling time for Level 1 medical calls (78% of what the department handles) of 3 minutes. “That was unacceptable,” he said, “But unless you’re part of that same comm center, you may not have a direct influence. We knew we had to start those conversations and build those relationships if we wanted to improve those times.” A series of biweekly meetings, changes in the comm center, and digging into EFD and EMD protocol, reduced those 3 minutes to 52 seconds, during a time when run volume increased as well.

Stay tuned for more the other highlights!