14 pieces of critical content for first responders

Excellence begins and ends with readiness. How many of these pieces of critical content do you have at-the-ready for your first responders?

December 28, 2020

Article highlights

  • Using technology for greater efficiency in first responder duties
  • How each piece of content helps personnel stay ready for anything

In many ways, content is the lifeblood of your department. Your content not only reflects your core values; it also guides you and your team toward compliance, efficiency, and safety. Emergency medical services policies and procedures, including SOGs and SOPs, are just one type of critical content.

There are many types of content that keep your department running, from organizational tools to training materials. Some content is lifesaving, while other content keeps things running smoothly. All of it should be easily accessible by your staff and first responders.

Together, these pieces of content culminate into Operational Readiness; the state of preparedness essential for handling any scenario that might cross the paths of your first responders.


Of course, having the right content in place is one important step toward safe and efficient work. But without accessibility, what good are all the protocols and procedures you’ve worked so hard to create? A tool like PowerDMS will empower your team to access critical content in critical moments, ensuring safety when it matters most.

Here are 15 of the most critical types of content PowerDMS helps you manage.

Policy content

1. SOPs/SOGs

Fire department standard operating guidelines (SOGs) or standard operating procedures (SOPs) are two of the most critical forms of content you’ll use. The choice to use “procedures” vs. “guidelines” is largely subjective and depends upon the preference of your agency.

Some prefer guidelines because of the ever-changing nature of life in Fire/EMS, and the need to be flexible in all scenarios. Still, others stick to procedures to drive home the importance of strict adherence to policies and to discourage “wiggle room.”

The most important thing is not what you decide to call your policies, but the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of their content. So whether you decide to go with “guidelines” or “procedures” or something else entirely, the following principles still ring true.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of SOPs, because they truly are the values and mission of your department codified in written form. When written and communicated effectively, they provide a clear roadmap to employees and give them a North Star to follow in all scenarios.

A cloud-based policy management platform like PowerDMS lets first responders access these critical documents anywhere, even from a mobile device. Learn more about policy and procedure management for the fire service and first responders.

2. Technical guidelines

It’s easy to get SOPs confused with technical guidelines. The two can often overlap, but both of them serve entirely unique purposes.

Think of fire department SOPs as a means of procedural guidance. While technical guidelines provide technical instructions, SOPs explain performance expectations and requirements.

Since the development of SOPs is based on command policies, they help standardize all department activities, from administration to emergency response.

Unlike technical guidelines, SOPs don’t necessarily describe how to do the job; they describe your department’s rules for doing the job, ensuring compliance. This makes SOPs a great tool for training employees, and one they should be able to reference as needed.

For example, technical guidelines might explain what certain mechanisms on a fire engine do when activated, but SOPs will tell you when it’s appropriate to utilize those mechanisms in the field.

Whether responding to an emergency or dealing with repairs, your employees need the right information and resources at their fingertips. Having technical guidelines available in the cloud not only saves time but encourages compliance in operations across the board.

Emergency response content

3. Pre-plans

Understanding a building’s features and hazards is crucial for safety and efficiency when responding to calls. That’s why pre-plans are so important. If you are not currently using a cloud-based document management software, you probably have to file away pre-plans in a folder or in binders.

This means responding officers don’t have access to your pre-plans until you’ve filed them. For optimal safety, these documents need to be readily available at all times.

With a central repository like PowerDMS, you can assess the building and immediately implement the pre-plan as early as the day the building was assessed. If dispatch receives a call from that property, responders can immediately pull it up in PowerDMS without the turnaround time common with a paper-based process.

4. Medical references

EMS personnel responding to emergencies are the trusted authorities for medical issues and medication. Unfortunately, many departments don’t have easy access to the information they need when they respond to medical emergencies.

First responders are only human, and sometimes after a long day of response calls they can forget crucial drug information.

Having medical references with common drugs and their intended usage on hand can help determine the best course of action for any scenario requiring narcotics administration.


5. Pharmacology abbreviations

When it comes to medication, there’s no room for error. Unpreparedness or confusion could cost someone their life. That’s why resources like pharmacology abbreviations, essentially a glossary for all things medicine related, are so important to have readily available.

6. Dosage charts

Certain classes of medication can be lethal when given in the wrong dose. It’s the priority of emergency responders to dose medication with precision and accuracy. Having dosage charts in the cloud means employees can quickly access the information they need in critical moments.

Organizational content

7. Surveys

While organizational content like surveys may seem less crucial than, say, SOPs, you might be surprised how useful they are.

From surveying staff on the best fire gloves to deciding on the best course of action for radio communications, survey results can guide your operations and boost morale by giving your employees a voice.

With paper alone, it can be easy for surveys to get lost in the shuffle. Conducting surveys through a platform like PowerDMS means employees can access them on mobile devices, which both saves time and increases participation.


8. Memos and written directives

Accountability is critical to the dissemination of information. When an incident demands a change in policy or you have an update to your technical strategy, it’s important everyone is on the same page.

Even if it’s a simple reminder, like which channel to use on company radios or a weather warning, you don’t want directives to get lost in an inbox. With a single, simple platform like PowerDMS, you can rest assured that everyone sees and acknowledges the digital memos you send.

9. Shift change forms

As you know, shift changes are a significant time for communicating in your department. After all, what happened in the previous shift dramatically affects what will go on in the proceeding shift.

When companies finishing their shift take a few minutes to debrief and inform incoming first responders of crucial information, it sets a productive and positive tone for the next company’s shift.

Traditional paper rosters and reports may seem effective, but they aren’t as reliable as cloud-based content. PowerDMS allows for easy creation and distribution of shift-change information, including topics like:

  • What did we not finish? (Maintenance, documentation, misc. projects)
  • What will we accomplish next shift?
  • Were there any problems during the shift?
  • What crucial information does the next company need to know to be successful?


10. Bulletin board-style announcements

If your employees aren’t around the firehouse on a given day, they might miss the announcements you post.

Using a cloud-based platform to communicate about events or schedule changes means everyone will instantly see these announcements. Plus, with the right software, you can instantly send updates to existing announcements if needed.

11. Bylaws

Your department’s bylaws are the building blocks for your organizational structure and job duties. But how often do your employees actually see and engage with this content?

Don’t relegate your bylaws to a file cabinet where they will gather dust. Giving your entire team the ability to review bylaws on their mobile devices means everyone will know when you update an article.

You can also collect digital signatures on your bylaws with a document management platform, ensuring compliance and competence when it matters most.

Training materials

12. Videos

Media like videos are key to ongoing education. Whether you have a quick update on a SOG or a detailed instructional video on a new piece of equipment, it’s crucial your employees have access to this information.

Demo or educational videos, stored in the cloud, makes finding and reviewing this information quick and convenient.

13. Courses

Training is a key aspect of making sure your employees remain compliant in their jobs. But in-person courses can get costly, not to mention time-consuming.

By bringing your training to the cloud, everyone in your department can train when they have the time. You can also customize courses with your SOPs and SOGs, ensuring your employees are equipped with all the tools they need for their jobs.


14. Quizzes

Quizzes and tests can be a great way to ensure your employees have the knowledge they need to succeed in their roles. Digital quizzes with instant results allow you to see who’s succeeding or struggling in particular areas.

With this knowledge, you can easily adjust your training methods to increase efficiency and compliance going forward.

Emergency medical services policies and procedures are a key aspect of a compliant environment. Without this content readily available, your employees won’t have the resources they need to safely, effectively respond to emergencies.

But the other forms of content are just as important. While storing all this content in file cabinets might seem simpler, this method often misses the mark. Managing your critical content with a cloud-based software solution ensures your entire team is prepared at all times.

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