Analytics Every Fire Department Needs

November 04, 2019 by Melissa Crowe

Analytics Every Fire Department Needs

Photo credit: Ian D. Keating/Flickr

Fire departments across the U.S. are looking for ways to improve planning and response with data, but the challenges around data access, data sharing, and data analysis are vast. Whether it’s combating delayed data, inconsistency across reports, or systems that don’t communicate with each other, making data-driven decisions can seem like an uphill climb.

If leaders are going to develop a holistic view of their activity, they need a solution that can support the analytics to see how resources are deployed, how strategies are performing, and how outcomes are evaluated.

Check out how four fire departments across the U.S. used Socrata to find innovative solutions to common challenges. They’ve taken practical approaches to issues as basic as equipping residents with smoke detectors to planning multi-million-dollar future infrastructure projects, and they’ve backed it all up with data.

Using Predictive Analytics in New Orleans

New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Timothy McConnell never envisioned using data to distribute smoke alarms, but in a StateTech article, McConnell says the approach “really was an eye opener and allowed this effort to be much more effective.”

Through a partnership with the New Orleans Office of Performance and Accountability, the fire department implemented a data-driven approach that targeted areas with high poverty levels, older housing, and other areas of the city that were most in need of smoke alarms.

The result: The city found homes in need of smoke alarms twice as fast as with random door-to-door checks, and installed about 18,000 fire alarms and more than 8,000 fire alarm batteries starting with folks who needed it most.

Ramsey County Tracks Emergency Response

Ramsey County hit a “mile-marker” in its data program with a Dispatch Incident Dashboard that provides new public safety insights with a comprehensive, incident-level look at the state of the county’s requests for service.

These dashboards, built with Socrata Perspectives, help governments give more context to their data and connect the dots between policy and outcomes with a compelling narrative. The county has taken a proactive approach to sharing these data stories, for example, with another recent release on their elections annual report.

For nearly two years, the emergency communications team worked with law enforcement, fire, and medical agencies from jurisdictions across the county to agree on what Computer Automated Dispatch (CAD) system call data would be published. The data provides an overview of the county’s emergency services jurisdictions, where they’re responding, and what calls they’re responding to, while carefully balancing privacy concerns and the value of public information. One goal was to proactively give the public self-service access to the data, rather than spend employee hours responding to records requests.

“We receive requests for this data on a regular basis,” said Kristine Grill, Ramsey County open data portal coordinator. “This fills a need we see from the public — it’s a big transparency piece."

Routing Non-Emergency Calls in Chattanooga

Responding to invalid assists is a part of any fire department’s jobs. However, when the Chattanooga Fire Department noticed an uptick, they also realized the impact on resources.

If they city could find a solution, they could free up resources to respond to life-threatening emergencies in a timely manner.

The city’s approach including re-routing invalid assist calls to other agencies, usually departments with social services attached. Then, they created a dashboard containing more detail on emergency response data and shared that with the public.

Through the dashboard, the fire department has partnered with its human resources department to track trends in on-the-job injuries, lost time due to injuries, and gender and diversity analysis within the department.

Performance-Driven Fire Response in Henderson

The performance program in Henderson, Nevada, has earned many accolades since its inception. And today, when it comes to emergency response, Henderson is naturally taking a performance-driven approach.

When the department tracked an increase in response times over a 2.5-year period, the assumption was that long lead times were the result of the distance to get to the west side. Henderson is geographically very long and wide, and growing westward, where there was not a fire station.

However, the long lead times were on the eastside where higher density created increased traffic. Henderson leaders identified this multi-million-dollar insight, and allocated funds to expand fire stations in the east, resulting in a less costly decision and a reduction in response times.

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