- Increase your safety and readiness
- Consistency across the department
- Efficient policy management
- Better employee accountability
- Protection from liability
Every call for a fire department is a potential crisis, and so you want your firefighters to go into the field with the very best equipment.
But being ready to face an emergency truly starts with the training and guidelines that form your fire department SOP (standard operating procedures). This is the foundation that keeps your department functioning and instructs firefighters on how to do their essential work, and to do it safely.
Simply having a fire department policy and procedure manual in place isn’t enough. If it’s on paper and stored in binders, it can be so unwieldy that it is ignored or forgotten. Just as you wouldn’t send firefighters out with substandard equipment, you also want the best, most efficient way to handle those policies.
Most fire departments work with a relatively small technology budget, and so it can seem impossible to upgrade to a policy management software. But while these platforms do come at a cost, they also can lead to significant cost savings and improvements in efficiency.
They also benefit your department by bringing your policies to life. Instead of being reactive and only referring to policies when something goes wrong, an effective software solution helps you become proactive, keeping those policies updated and training your firefighters on them.
In this article, we’ll explore the critical ways in which policy management software can help you, and why it’s so important to get the most out of your fire department policies.
1. Increase your safety and readiness
Keeping your firefighters safe on the job starts well before there’s a call. It starts with the training, studying, and preparation that give them the preparedness they need when an emergency occurs.
This knowledge is contained in your fire department policy manual, which makes it an essential building block for keeping your team ready.
An effective policy management software increases that safety by making it easier to use your policies. On a cloud-based system, you can send them to anyone, at any time, anywhere, and on any device.
Some software platforms, including PowerDMS, provide integrated testing and training. This way, you incorporate your policies and your training into the same system, making it simple to track who has received necessary training and who has not. This works with both in-person and digital training.
If you have an updated policy that necessitates some training, you can accomplish some of this through digital training and tests. These can be pushed to employees, and they can complete them remotely, while you will receive confirmation that they completed the training. By going digital, you save money overall on training.
A software platform with mobile functionality will give your team the ability to use intuitive search to access your fire department SOP and policies from any device. That way, they’ll be ready for any situation and will have immediate access to the SOP manual that keeps them safe.
2. Consistency across the department
Whatever the size of your fire department, you know it can be a challenge to keep everyone up to date on policies and procedures when firefighters work on different shifts and respond to daily calls. It can feel impossible to all meet together at the same time.
Policy management software allows you to send important updates directly to everyone on their devices, while also tracking who has reviewed and signed off on those updates. But that is just the start of how it increases consistency across your department.
In policy management software, you can create groups of users and specific assignments. That way, instead of defining roles each time, you can have those roles in place and automate the distribution and assignment of policies by group.
Just as you can establish groups, you also can create advanced, automated workflows. Each time a policy needs to be updated, it will follow the predetermined workflow. You can easily assign stakeholders, set roles, and check in on the progress at any time. At every step in the workflow, key stakeholders will be automatically notified when it’s their turn to review, edit, and/or provide feedback on an SOP.
When policies exist in paper form, or if they’re not stored on the cloud, it’s easy to have two versions of the same policy floating around. An effective platform offers version control. This makes certain that only a single published version of each fire department SOP exists, so that employees won’t be referencing old and outdated information.
3. Efficient policy management
While moving your fire department policy manual to a policy management software platform is an initial investment, it brings long-term savings of time and money. Replacing paper policies with a digital system saves you in printing and energy costs. And PowerDMS customers have been able to complete policy processes up to 4x faster, on average.
Going digital also prevents double work from misplaced or damaged files. Your files will always be safe and accessible on a cloud-based system. And it’s a scalable solution that can be as big or small as needed. And just think: You’ll never have to buy another binder or filing cabinet again, or frantically sift through stacks of paper for a specific policy in time-sensitive situations.
A cloud-based system gives you a central repository for your fire department policy and procedure manual, serving as a single source of truth.
By creating groups of users on the front end, you can quickly and easily disseminate crucial information to them using automatic processes.
And updating your policies and fire department SOPs is an easy task. Just make the changes in the system and those updates will be reflected for all users.
4. Better employee accountability
You can protect your employees by holding them accountable. This means making sure they’re knowledgeable about your policies and SOPs, as well as holding them to best practices and industry standards.
When your fire department has strong accountability, this also builds trust in your community. The citizens you serve know that your firefighters are well trained and ready to do the difficult and dangerous, but essential, work facing them.
Some policy management software includes signature capture and tracking. This means that when you post a policy update, it will push out to all necessary employees and ask them to review the changes and sign off that they have done so. By tracking this, you have proof that your employees are up to date on policies and SOPs.
Tracking all of this can seem insurmountable in a traditional system, but software platforms will include to-do lists and automatic reminders.
Some software platforms also offer public sharing functionality. At PowerDMS, this is called Public-Facing Documents. With this, you can quickly select the visibility status of each policy, making policies public as needed. When the public has access to your policies, it helps them to understand the work you do, building community trust.
5. Protection from liability
Municipalities around the country are struggling with increasing financial losses from lawsuits and legal settlements. These can come from civilians as well as from wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuits.
While you cannot guarantee that you will never face a lawsuit, you can take steps to protect your department and city in the event that one does occur. This starts with making sure that your employees are up to date on policies and procedures, but it also requires you to collect proof of this.
Version history shows you which version of a policy was in place at the time of an incident, as well as who viewed, signed, edited, approved, and trained on it. This goes for every current and archived policy, giving you the necessary evidence that employees knew the policy and, in turn, reducing your risk of liability.
The next step
You’ve seen the many ways in which a policy management software platform can benefit your fire department. PowerDMS offers all of these features, and more.
PowerDMS is a popular solution among city agencies, particularly with law enforcement. Are any other departments in your city or town using PowerDMS? Our platform can be used across departments, so that you can collaborate with other agencies while also maintaining your own independent policy management system. You can scale PowerDMS simply by purchasing more licenses.
If you’d like to learn more, visit our article on policy and procedure management for fire departments.