A Look at Data-Driven Decisions for Fire Depts. – Part 2

Posted on May 2, 2018
Categories: Data & Analytics
Tags: Fire

As a fire department, are you effective? Are you making defensible decisions for things like staffing, operations, budget? If you answered yes, Jason Hathcock, a Captain with the Fayetteville (NC) Fire/Emergency Management Dept. and Wilmington (NC) Asst. Chief Frank Blackley challenge you to prove it.

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

In part one of our series we talked about key highlights of Getting Started. In part two we will cover the important factors in Setting Expectations. 

Baselines & benchmarks:  The best example of baselines (where you are) and benchmarking (where you want to be) is something every fire department is familiar with: Response times. Baseline figures should come from your software; for benchmarking, you need to decide what to benchmark your department against, Hathcock said, citing such common sources as an industry standard, accreditation, NFPA, ISO, and accreditation. Most important, he adds, “Are you doing a benchmarking survey against a ‘like’ organization?”

Accreditation: Both Fayetteville and Wilmington are accredited departments. “With the accreditation model comes a set of standards,” said Hathcock. “You have a mission, you have a vision, you have a strategic plan, you have an adopted standards of cover, you have 252 performance standards in 10 categories.” Hathcock describes accreditation as “going through your whole department and cleaning out your closet,” adding, “I realize some organizations don’t necessarily embrace [the accreditation] model, but to me it’s much bigger than my organization – it’s about that community of citizens that pay for us to do what we do. We forget that sometimes. We need to be reminded of that.”

Turning data into information: “Data,” says Blackley, ‘is raw numbers, such as the result of a query from your FIREHOUSE® Software.” To make it tell the story you need it to, Blackley recommended presenting your data in a context people can understand. His recommendation for making pivot tables more powerful: the Excel Power Pivot add-on.

Data transparency: Departments across Fayettville participate in an open data portal and tracking mechanism called TRACStat (Transparent Reporting & Analytics for Citizens), the City’s system for collecting organizational performance data and subsequently reporting that data to residents. The TRACStat citizen-facing portal provides performance and budget data linked to the City’s strategic goals. “As an accredited agency we knew the importance of conveying that information back with the citizens, and now every department in the City of Fayetteville has performance measures,” said Hathcock. “The idea is if [they’re] paying money, the public should know what you’re doing. So every department reports those measures quarterly, and it’s completely transparent – not only does the city council/city management see it, but citizens also have access.”

Go back and take a look at part one, Getting Started here.