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Fire Protection Workflow

Sunday, August 2, 2009 by Slaughter Development

Every week, Muncie, Indiana firefighters dutifully submit maintenance reports to headquarters. Until last month, this was done by hand—by actually driving fire trucks across town to deliver the paperwork!

As covered in the Star Press*, this is a major change:

A low-cost upgrade of computer equipment at fire stations will eliminate the costly expense of firefighters using fire trucks to deliver paperwork to the chief’s office.

“If we are literally delivering every document from a fire station by fire truck, that is not an efficient operation,” said Mayor Sharon McShurley.

The city administration estimates a $1,500 cost to taxpayers every time a fire trucks makes a run, based on the 6,066 runs made last year at a $9 million budget expense.

Journalist Rick Yencer goes on to explain that this change will require some new equipment. Elsewhere on the web, the Email FAIL Blog offers some sarcastic but valid commentary:

Not only do the firefighters need to be trained in the use of email, but they’ll also be getting scanners so the reports they had been filling out by hand will be turned into digital documents for the transfer.


What’s next? Some kind of crazy machine that will let them create their weekly maintenance reports digitally, so they won’t even need the scanner or to write the reports up by hand? I mean, my gosh, what a wonderful futuristic world it would be if that kind of technology were to come along!

There is serious frustration in the tone of those words, but the points are quite reasonable. It’s almost always faster and cheaper to collect, deliver and reviewed information using electronic mediums. From the outside, this change seems painfully obvious, but the article hints that the issues are more complex and that the workflow requires significant investigation.

However, the changes necessary at the Muncie Fire Department are more cultural than technological. The paper also reported that firefighters historically used company trucks to make supply runs to local grocery stores! To address problems with workflow, we must begin by understanding the motivations and beliefs of the stakeholders themselves. Furthermore, it is those individuals who should suggest new courses of action and who must implement new ideas.

At Slaughter Development, our focus is on helping organizations to improve productivity and satisfaction from the bottom up. Like the Muncie Fire Department, your company may be doing the equivalent of hauling reports across town at $1,500 a pop without realizing there could be a better way. Contact us to discuss your workflow and ways we can work together to make positive improvements.

* At the time this blog was posted, the original Star Press article was not available on their website. Readers may wish to view a Google cache version or a screenshot of the article.

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Like this post? Here are some related entries from The Methodology Blog you might enjoy:

Saving Ink, Maintaining Workflow - Every day, over 600,000 copies of the Washington Post hit newsstands and front porches. Printing now requires 30% less ink yet no additional frustration. Read on »
The 26-Pixel Tragedy - Brody PR, a 20-year old public relations firm, recently made a small mistake. In a few seconds, someone clicked the wrong box and may have destroyed the reputation of the entire company. Read on »
The Importance of Workflow - Improving workflow doesn’t require intimate knowledge of technical systems. As one blogger demonstrates, it simply requires keen observation. Read on »
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