What’s Your Department’s Story?

What is your department’s ‘story’? Does it include the time C-shift rounded up some snakes and put them in the pillowcases of some A-shifters? If so, you may be thinking of a different type of story (but that’s still a good one, nonetheless). When thinking of what your department’s story is, here’s a good question to think about:

How well are we explaining the tremendous value we bring to our community?

My name is Dale Fahrney, and I am a retired Fire Marshal from the Miami Valley Fire District in Miamisburg, Ohio. 32 years ago I started my career off as a Volunteer Firefighter. Throughout those 32 years I added EMT, Paramedic, Fire Inspector, Fire Investigator, and even IT Support to my list of titles. For the last 2 years I served as a Regional Trainer for Emergency Reporting. When I retired from the fire service this June, it didn’t take long to start retirement off with a bang. I currently am the Great Lakes Sales Representative with Emergency Reporting, and I get the pleasure of working with existing ER customers and new customers daily.

We’ve had previous blog posts like this one that cover the necessity of having good, clean data and the importance of documentation in the fire service. We were all taught early in our careers that if you didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen. That begs the question: Why do us (we)? in the fire service have such a hard time telling our story to our stakeholders? Those stakeholders include:

  • the public
  • our peers
  • elected officials

I’ll give you the only answer I could find that rang true with me personally as well as professionally: because we simply don’t tell them. Because we’ve failed to properly document what we do, we are the ones suffering with some of the everyday, difficult decisions regarding our budgets.

Our failure to tell our story will lead to pain, frustration and lack of support from our stakeholders. I recently read an article posted in the Boston Globe by a college professor who believes that there are too many firefighters.

Why do these articles happen? This brings us to the fact that in the fire service, we desperately need to tell our story. We need to to enter the data in our data management system, data that could save a life, document an injury, show trends in the fire service, and finally: describe in detail just what we do.

Early in my career, an elected official asked me, what do you guys [at the fire station] do all day?” Here’s what I answered with:

  • Calls
  • Training
  • Inspections
  • Pre-plans
  • Plan reviews
  • Hydrant testing
  • Public safety events

I could go on and on. The point I’m getting to is that firefighters are busier than ever creating a safer community, advocating fire prevention, and perfecting training evolutions.

We’ve been through the hard part of this story, and we’re just now getting to the good part (I promise).

As I stated earlier, I recently retired as a Fire Marshal in Ohio. In 2012, my department started using Emergency Reporting. The Emergency Reporting system helps you document not only what you do, but helps you tell your departments story to all stakeholders. Here’s how Emergency Reporting fits the bill when it comes to showing stakeholders what you are accomplishing in your day-to-day.

Showcase Your Work

  • ER lets you run high quality reports that are simple and easy, no rocket scientists needed.
  • Easily export your data to Excel for even more customization.
  • Pie charts and graphs make your data visual and easier to understand.
  • ER helps you enter your data easily.

Manage Your Station

  • The Daily Log will help you document everything that happens in the firehouse – not just the incidents.
  • The Training 3.0 Module tracks all your department training.
  • The Occupancy Module tracks all your communities inspections, pre-plans, and OVAP scores.
  • The Hydrant module tracks all your departments fire hydrant maintenance.
  • The Library Module provides a place where you can store all your departments important documents. You don’t have to risk losing your documents in some filing cabinet. With an internet connection, they’re available whenever you need them.
  • Learn more about the system’s modules on our website!

Without the ability to properly document what we do in the fire service, stakeholders will fill in the blanks with clichs, falsehoods, and assumptions.

My last department recently went through an ISO PPC Reclassification, and if you’re in the fire service you know how big of a deal that is. We were currently a Class 4 at the time. The reviewer arrived and we had all the necessary reports ready for him, all thanks to the Emergency Reporting system. He was impressed with what we had to show him!

Several weeks later, the news came in. We were bumped up to a Class 2! This was a 50% reduction, and we were even within reach of a Class 1 status. Our community will benefit dramatically from the in insurance rates for both the business community and homeowners.

That’s just one example of a possible benefit from telling your department’s story. Thanks for reading, and I have one last question for you:

If you don’t tell your department’s story, who will?