Thursday, April 22, 2010

Independent review indicates PSC meets majority of industry best practices

The results of an operational review recently completed on The City of Calgary’s Public Safety Communications (PSC) indicates PSC is meeting all, or a considerable portion, of industry best practices in 78 per cent of 56 assessed areas.

Over the last eight months, a team of independent consultants evaluated 56 best practice areas across PSC, including its organizational structure, operations, technology and facility. In addition, 500 citizens were surveyed regarding their impressions of 9-1-1 and police and fire non-emergency lines. More than 1,000 frontline fire and police officers and over 200 PSC staff were also surveyed to assess their level of satisfaction with the service provided by PSC.

Citizens Have Positive Perceptions of 9-1-1
A survey of citizens indicated 82 per cent of Calgarians have a strong and positive opinion of 9-1-1 services. Citizen impressions were somewhat lower, at 75 per cent, with the fire and police non-emergency number service.

The review indicated PSC has a sound internal organizational structure. It also has a strong hiring and staffing plan with lower-than-average staff turnover rates. Since its amalgamation, PSC has also consistently improved the times in which a call is answered on 9-1-1 and non-emergency lines.

“The review has told us that the results are typical of what is seen in other changing and evolving environments such as the one we have at PSC,” indicated Steve Dongworth, PSC Manager. “As a result of the dedicated efforts of our staff, we have established a solid foundation of public safety that is recognized by Calgarians.”

Focus on Five Key Areas Going Forward
The review identified 22 per cent of areas where PSC still needs to meet best practice, which resulted in a total of 36 recommendations. Work is under way, or was planned previously, on many of these recommendations, including the sixteen that were assigned the highest priority to address five key areas identified as integral to maintaining current levels of public safety:

Creating a Faster Flow of Information
  • Examine potential integration of fire/EMS and police computer-aided dispatch systems to reduce repetition and duplication of information required by a caller to 9-1-1, transfer information more easily and quickly between multiple agencies involved in an incident response and reduce equipment and maintenance requirements.
  • Allow for quicker workflow adjustment of Emergency Communications Officers to accommodate peak times, changing call demand or large-scale incidents through implementation of universal workstations.
Responding to High-Demand Area
  • Ensure the appropriate numbers of Emergency Communications Officers are available to provide more and faster information to emergency responders through the analysis generated from a management reporting function added to existing radio systems.
  • Implement ongoing workload and staffing analysis to reduce call wait times for 9-1-1 and non-emergency lines, improve information sharing with emergency responders and allocate staff to areas where citizen and emergency responder needs are highest.
Continuing to Maintain Public Safety During Disasters
  • Educate citizens and emergency responders on the PSC functions that will continue to be performed or halted during a disaster impacting the PSC facility.
The sixteen high priority recommendations also include enhancements to areas such as policy development, training and organizational governance, where work has been in progress for several months.

Improving Relationships with Emergency Responders
“We are taking the right steps operationally,” said Dongworth. “However, we need to translate those steps into service improvements that matter to our emergency responders.”

Satisfaction with PSC services ranged from 31 to 43 per cent among emergency responders and PSC staff. Fire and police officers indicated timeliness and quality of information provided to them are critical elements to their satisfaction. PSC staff reflected similar sentiments, indicating a desire for additional training to ensure information is being collected from 9-1-1 callers and disseminated as quickly and accurately as possible.

“Work has already started on many of the review recommendations,” said Police Chief Rick Hanson. “I am confident through implementation of the recommendations and our ongoing support that PSC can address our officers’ concerns and continue to enhance public safety through both the 9-1-1 and non-emergency lines.”

“PSC has the difficult job of trying to get accurate and clear information from a distressed person on the other end of the line, then providing that information as fast as possible to emergency responders,” said Fire Chief Bruce Burrell. “There are challenges inherent on both sides of that equation, but overall, the review tells us PSC is finding that balance and heading in the right direction.”

How the Recommendations will be put into Action
The 36 review recommendations will be incorporated into PSC’s broader business plan for 2010 and 2011, which also considers others business factors and initiatives key to the organization. Recommendations with lower priority or requiring other work to be completed before they can be initiated will be included within the 2012 to 2014 business planning cycle.

Resourcing is already in place through the current PSC budget for implementation of some of the key recommendations in 2010. Staffing adjustments were also made in early 2010 to augment personnel available for the police non-emergency line and fire dispatch. Costs associated with implementing other priority recommendations will be brought forward as part of The City’s 2011 budget adjustment process or incorporated into PSC budget planning for 2012-2014.

The operational review report, containing an executive summary and all 36 recommendations, as well as a summary of work completed to date on high priority recommendations, is available on

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