Managing fire department operations using analytics



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Fire department operations are very complex, with multi-faceted missions that include not only fire prevention and suppression, but emergency response and fire inspections. These must be coordinated with area growth and development decisions, and water system management decisions.  When a fire or an emergency occurs, the right equipment, with the right people, have to show up at the right time.

Data analysis and analytics can insure that these “right parameters” are met. For example:

Fire Station Location - Station location factors include population, number of structures, types of structures (residential, commercial, industrial), property value,  types of commercial or industrial activity, thoroughfare and street configuration, geographical area, water system data and other geographical and environmental factors. With response time as a primary goal, data related to property, development, GIS, traffic, utility systems and other factors can be analyzed and modeled to create recommendations for optimum fire station placement, and for staffing, training and equipment resources.

Water System Analysis/Hydrant Data - Fire department  personnel must know the water system's  capacity and pressure in all areas covered by the department. In order to have current accurate information on system status, the fire department needs real time information from a number of sources. These include data about public works work orders, treatment plant production, daily consumption, SCADA system informatoin from water storage facilities and booster stations, and perhaps weather data. Very few fire departments, if any, actually have this data on hand. Using data integration and business intelligence tools, all of these data sources can be accessed and analyzed. Department personnel can view dashboards that give a continuous, real-time picture of water availability, pressures and hydrant status, and projections of any potential problems by neighborhood, district or any other geographical configuration.

Response Times - The basic performance measure for fire departments is response  time; how long from the time of the 911 call to the arrival of the minimum staffing level at the scene. Many departments calculate response times based on the time the call is initiated in the Computer Aided Dispatch system, which is not as accurate as using ring time into the 911 call center. Using analytics, ring time from the 911 system can be integrated with data from the CAD System to give an exact response time by call type and apparatus (ambulance, fire truck, etc). Again, dashboards can give fire department managers a real time view of response times and factors such as weather, time of day, traffic congestion, staffing and others.

These are only a sample of the operations issues that can be analyzed using data analysis and analytics. Through the continued development and use of analytical tools , fire departments can  improve service, save lives and reduce costs.


About Author

Bill Coleman

Advisory Industry Consultant

Bill Coleman works with SAS local government customers across the US to understand best practices and solutions. Coleman applies his more than 30 years of experience as a senior leader in city and local government to guide SAS product and marketing management. From 1994 to 2008, he served as Town Manager of Cary, NC, the seventh-largest municipality in the state with a population exceeding 130,000. Coleman was responsible for planning, organizing and directing municipal operations, which included more than 1,000 employees and 11 departments providing a full range of municipal services. Under his leadership, Cary was the first municipality in North Carolina to work on performance enhancement system. The system was designed to help the town maintain its high quality of life by improving resource allocation and operational efficiencies throughout town government, beginning with the areas of public safety and development services.

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