In our last blog entry, Master Planning, Strategic Planning and Why You Need Both, we explained the importance of planning in your fire and EMS agency and talked about the difference between master planning and strategic planning.
In this installment, we’ll review these additional planning initiatives: Standards of Cover (deployment planning) and Cooperative Efforts Planning.
Another term that is sometimes used interchangeably with master and strategic planning is standards of cover (SOC). An SOC is similar to a master plan but focused strictly on resource deployment: fire stations, apparatus and people. It’s a detailed analysis of deployment based on the elements of:
- Service demand by type and location
- Resource concentration
- Resource distribution
- Response performance
- Response reliability
- Community risk assessment
The process is highly data-driven and critical if your fire department is seeking accreditation or simply wants a very comprehensive deployment analysis. If not, a master plan may better suit your needs.
The term consolidation is often assumed to be the same as merger or some other unification alternative. In fact, the definition by statute varies widely across states. There are many ways that fire departments can collaborate without being limited to forming a single agency. Some options include:
- Administrative-only consolidation
- Functional consolidation to include programs like training, prevention and others
- Operational consolidation under which agencies drop boundaries and respond to emergencies jointly
- Legal unification or merger
Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the community, so careful evaluation of all options and planning of next steps is critical.
Our last article in the series will look more closely at tactical/operational planning and financial planning.
Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) is the consulting arm of the International Association of Fire Chiefs.