Communications & Dispatch, Patient Care

Master Planning for Public Safety Agencies

Typically, organizations that don’t plan are destined to fail. Prior to executing an agency’s path or direction, it’s necessary to develop a clear strategy to implement its plans. To achieve this, organizations should consider„employing a customer-centered, master-planning process.

One of the primary roles of a senior organizational leader is to “steer the ship” from the 30,000-foot level. Organizational leaders must have a vision that extends beyond the next few years. Leaders must learn as much as possible regarding their environments and its expected changes years in advance so they’ll be able to guide the agency rather than be reactionary and unprepared to operate in a disorganized environment.„

Making a Master Plan
Master planning uses typically future growth projections based on census projections and comprehensive land use and growth plans. These planning and zoning documents typically drive development of future land use within a community. Using this planning information, along with response data captured by computer-aided dispatch systems or other record management systems can utilize GIS mapping to model future population bases and system demands over the course of the next 10-20 years. Modeling is essential for system-deployment planning and future resource needs, which must be planned within a community-based public safety system.„

During the master planning process, it’s imperative to hold community stakeholder input sessions. This customer-centered approach is instrumental in educating the community about the current environment, likely changes, and what developmental effects of projected growth will have on public safety needs. Community input for service standards and goals are an important component in the planning process. Leaders must keep in mind that in most environments, albeit public or private sector, it’s the community stakeholders that typically fund public safety systems.„

Competing public safety stakeholders’ expectations can occur in a large county with differing population bases. In master planning processes, one single area may have urban, suburban and rural areas of response, and community expectations for public safety resources and response expectations may be vastly different in each area, which should be considered for planning purposes. The stakeholders’ expectations can also be driven by financial basis of supporting different levels of community resources, depending on tax base.

Meeting Future Demands
In addition to system deployment and demands deemed necessary to create a master plan for the community, other organizational aspects can benefit from long-range planning, such as human resource functions. In particular, organizations may face a changing community and service demands that can be identified and projected out over 10 to 20 but may require different recruitment, selection, retention practices and identification of different skill subsets expected or required of your workforce. Facilities and apparatus also present opportunities to identify future needs well in advance, so the organization can fiscally prepare to meet the requirements and expectations that the future demand will certainly bring.

Other areas typically identified in a master planning process include risk analysis. Plans review current risk as well as risk-mitigation strategies that are in place or should be considered as opportunities for improvement. Master plans also review risk potential that may result from changing community factors. Examples may include a projected change in demographics of a particular community. Population trends estimated over a 10-year period may show a ˙grayingÓ of a potential community, which would result in more calls for services associated with an elderly population base. This may require risk-mitigation strategies such as community-based fall prevention programs to address an anticipated increase in demands for this type of service.„

Invaluable Tools
Overall, master planning is an invaluable tool for leaders and organizations for setting into motion the ability for organizations to define their future landscape, development systems and resources, and for becoming well positioned to function within a changed environment. The ability to solicit a customer-centered approach to planning assures that your organizations vision isn’t created within a vacuum but in concert with important community stakeholders who will be critical to the ultimate success or failure of your mission.

Todd J. LeDuc, MS, CFO, CEM,„ is deputy fire chief for the Broward Sheriff’s Office Department of Fire Rescue in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Chief LeDuc has assisted over two dozen public safety agencies with their master planning process as an associate with Emergency Services Consulting Inc. He’s an examiner for the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services, past president of the National EMS Managers Association and faculty for NHTSA’s Quality Improvement for EMS Leaders. He’s on the editorial board of„JEMS,„EMS Magazine,„Journal of Prehospital & Disaster Medicine, UCLA Prehospital Care Research Forum and a reviewer for the„Annals of Emergency Medicine. Chief LeDuc is a past Sterling Quality Examiner appointed by the Florida Governor Lawton Chiles. For further information on master planning, Chief LeDuc can be reached at„[email protected].„