Is your department overwhelmed by system status management?
Lexipol Brand Studio
Here's how one agency made move-ups easy
By Courtney Levin, EMS1 BrandFocus Staff
Operating a fire station or EMS agency means an immense amount of components need to be considered at any given time. From equipment and vehicle maintenance to the continuous training of first responders, the success of a department hinges on many factors.
However, no matter how organized or technologically advanced a department may be, serving one's community effectively and efficiently can only occur if resources are conveniently located and constantly monitored. This ongoing assessment of vehicle coverage, or system status management, ensures that fire trucks and ambulances are strategically positioned to optimize response times when a call comes in.
As important as this process is, it's often incredibly time-consuming. Many departments rely on manual operations for their system status management, or move-ups, sometimes requiring up to 15 keystrokes just to move one vehicle to a different location.
Depending on the agency, dispatchers may have to memorize multiple rules to ensure they are performing move-ups in compliance with fire station and ambulance company plans. Move-up rules might even change based on the time of day or hinge upon where other vehicles are located at any given time.
All this analysis is often taking place while dispatchers are simultaneously answering emergency calls, making it far too easy for errors to occur. To perform move-ups more efficiently and accurately, some departments are moving away from manual processes in favor of system status management software.
Ventura County, located in Southern California, is a hub of first responder activity. With a population of approximately 850,000 people spread across 2,200 square miles, system status management there is a huge task.
"We dispatch for all fire departments and all ambulances within the county," said Jordan Roberts, assistant fire communications manager at Ventura County Fire Department.
In addition to the 33 fire stations in their department, Ventura County FD also dispatches for eight stations in Oxnard, six stations in Ventura and one in Fillmore, as well as working in calls for private ambulance company AMR.
Roberts says their ambulance system status management is one of the department's biggest challenges. Divided between east and west portions of the county, the process includes dozens of move-up rules across six pages.
"It's pretty labor-intensive for our status dispatcher to the point where we had to create a whole dispatcher position that was dedicated to performance status," he said.
Entrusted with a heavy workload, this role involves typing all day as ambulances are assigned to calls and then return to the system after dropping patients off at hospitals. Different plans for various fire battalions are also considered, making it imperative that minimum coverage is always maintained throughout the county.
Ventura County FD first heard of Deccan International about a decade ago, but it wasn't until the last few years that leadership there saw an opportunity to take their move-ups from a manual job to a more automated process.
Deccan's system status management software LiveMUM primarily utilizes a data-driven model, using departmental KPIs, operational policies and a set of algorithms to help project when and where an incident will occur. Based on these predictions, it will recommend move-ups as needed while balancing the need for units to stay where they are and avoid unnecessary moves.
Departments using LiveMUM can complete system-recommended move-ups using a commit button and can view a customized coverage map that helps dispatchers visually see where all units are positioned.
Using Deccan's newest version of LiveMUM, Ventura County FD was able to lighten the load placed upon their system status management dispatcher. The implementation process, however, was anything but straightforward.
"They said that they could develop it to apply all business rules, which is essentially taking our static plans that are on paper now and developing an algorithm for that," said Roberts. "Our plan was pretty much all business rules, so they had to make some heavy modifications to be able to accommodate that, which they were able to do."
While Deccan worked to adapt their data-driven model to Ventura County FD's static plans, Roberts says he faced other unique challenges.
Leadership changes within the department coupled with issues stemming from the pandemic made it difficult when it came time to implement LiveMUM. Ensuring the new software was compatible with the county's security and IT requirements also contributed to some delays.
The Ventura County FD is now well on its way to rolling out LiveMUM's data-driven model to all dispatchers, but not without thorough training.
"We have a training environment being set up right now and they’re going to do some development in the training environment," said Roberts. "Then we’re going to start a live pilot in the next month and a half or so."
Roughly 75% of dispatchers in Ventura County are using LiveMUM regularly, but once additional components are introduced, using the software system will be a requirement. Roberts says that, like with anything new, some dispatchers are skeptical about LiveMUM.
"I think the change management portion is huge," he said, "so we need to have a well-structured plan to be able to implement that and get the right buy-in from the dispatchers."
The Ventura County FD's plan includes not only training dispatchers on how LiveMUM operates based on the department's static rules but also highlights an upcoming development using its data-driven model to project where the next incident will occur and stage resources appropriately.
Once dispatchers are comfortable using LiveMUM, Roberts is hopeful that he can eliminate the status position and regain a much-needed dispatcher.
"After we have the full data-driven model in place, I think that's huge for us," he said. "We really need another dispatcher for minimum staffing levels, and this is going to free up someone to be able to take calls on the phone or dispatch on the radio."
While it's been a slow process fully implementing LiveMUM, the Ventura County FD is already starting to see benefits from using the software. Their success, like all departments across the country, is directly correlated to their system status management, and using LiveMUM is helping dispatchers accomplish this task with ease.
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Courtney Levin is a Branded Content Project Lead for Lexipol where she develops content for the public safety audience including law enforcement, fire, EMS and corrections. She holds a BA in Communications from Sonoma State University and has written professionally since 2016.