Bellevue Fire Department Speeds Accreditation Process with Citizen Connect
For the Fire Department in Bellevue, Washington, accreditation is key.
The department (BFD) was the one of the first in the nation to become accredited by the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE), a national nonprofit that recognizes efficient and effective emergency service organizations. Working with CPSE helps a fire department to review its performance and continually improve its services, resulting in a higher quality of life for its community.
One of only four accredited departments in the state, BFD is proud of the distinction. But every five years, it must undergo a cumbersome renewal process that saps time and resources from staff and leaders.
With the 2018 reaccreditation process drawing near, BFD decided to rethink how it evaluated its data to make the process more efficient, present the findings in a clear and visually compelling way, and gain better insight into the department’s performance.
Launching the Community Risk Assessment Tool
Working with Socrata, BFD made a move toward a more streamlined, digital route to re-accreditation. It created a customized version of Citizen Connect, an app from Socrata that gives users an interactive view of data about a neighborhood or city, that helps fire chiefs analyze fire incidents, especially in high impact or vulnerable areas. The interactive map show fire incidents (in blue) and building structure scores for every building in Bellevue (in green), in addition to landmarks like fire stations, fire hydrants, sprinkler systems, schools, and more:
Now, firefighters can better visualize where incidents are most likely to occur and can plan preventive measures in high-risk areas. They can also better allocate resources to put firefighters in the areas most likely to need emergency support.
Kieron Gillmore, Business Analyst for BFD, has seen this first-hand: “BFD continuously evaluates how the department can be most effective delivering services with the resources it currently has. Sometimes it’s helping our outreach staff determine where they should concentrate preventative efforts for home fires or other life safety topics. This tool helps us do that.”
With BFD’s Socrata-powered Community Risk Assessment Tool, firefighters can better visualize where incidents are most likely to occur and can plan preventive measures in high-risk areas.
Using the Tool to Renew Accreditation
What was once a lengthy renewal process that required weeks of work from a number of staff members can now be completed in a fraction of the time by BFD. They can embed charts and graphs from the tool directly into their reports to CPSE, without spending hours fine-tuning and transforming the raw data.
“Now with Citizen Connect, not only can we evaluate many other factors that contribute to risk, but the visual nature of the tool greatly facilitates fire command staff’s understanding of the data and reduces the time involved for leadership to complete the analysis.” —Kieron Gillmore, Business Analyst, Bellevue Fire Department.
“In the past, our structural risk assessments took 50-100 hours of staff time. Now with Citizen Connect, not only can we evaluate many other factors that contribute to risk, but the visual nature of the tool greatly facilitates fire command staff’s understanding of the data and reduces the time involved for leadership to complete the analysis,” says Gillmore.
Within just a week of using the tool, Gillmore was able to lead a number of two-hour-long meetings with fire command staff using live demos of the platform.
What’s Ahead for the Bellevue Fire Department
Exciting plans lay ahead for the Community Risk Assessment Tool. BFD is already expanding the number of datasets included in the tool, with demographics and vulnerable population data being added. Looking ahead, BFD seeks to utilize this tool by providing a framework for displaying and visualizing data which, in turn, can potentially better inform the department’s periodic reassessments of incident response and outreach/prevention efforts.
The tool also offers a transparent method of providing BFD data to the community. With the data now available to the public, the hope is that this tool will inform and illustrate many of the factors and data the fire department evaluates to keep the community safe.
Learn more about the technology powering the Bellevue Fire Department’s Community Risk Assessment Tool: Citizen Connect.