There are many resources available to learn about evaluation. A primary resource is the manual published by the Center for Disease Control in 2000 titled Demonstrating Your Program’s Worth. This manual teaches program managers how to demonstrate the value of their program to the community. While the manual was developed for health services, it can easily be applied to fire service prevention programs. As a matter of fact, this manual served as the basis for the development of the National Fire Academy’s six-day course titled “Demonstrating Your Fire Prevention Program’s Worth.” The manual will help you understand how to develop the tools for the various stages of evaluation. It is available for download at the CDC website – www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/demonstr.htm. It is no longer in print and only available online.
Another valuable resource is Managing Fire and Rescue Services (2002) from the International City/County Management Association. This book was originally published in 1988 and contains a chapter on performance measurements. Performance measurements are one of the methods to evaluate programs or service delivery. This book discusses the application of performance measurements to fire service delivery, specifically emergency response times. These measurements come from standards. This group is one of the largest associations and provides city and county managers with information for investigating and evaluating the reasons for high or low performance levels. The book is available at their website, www.icma.org, along with other recent documents on performance measurements.
The National Fire Protection Association’s Research Foundation published “Measuring Code Compliance Effectiveness for Fire-Related Portions of Codes” (2008). This paper addresses measuring the effectiveness of fire prevention programs through 11 specific measures that will identify whether inspection services are effective. They not only outline the measures, but show how they were created and applied within the fire service. This paper goes a long way in establishing a national performance measurement for prevention programs. This has lead to the creation of a new NFPA committee to establish a standard on performance measurements for the fire service. This will aid departments in not only applying these performance measurements within their department, but also in creating a way to measure against other fire departments of similar size. The paper can be downloaded from www.nfpa.org/assets/files/PDF/Research/CCEReport.pdf.
As mentioned earlier in this article, the National Fire Academy established a new six-day course encompassing the basics of evaluation, how evaluation is an essential component of community risk reduction, and the six stages of a program evaluation model. The course emphasizes the information presented by applying it to an existing program for understanding and then applying it as a final project to a new program. This course is the only one available to the fire service on the creation of evaluation methods. It is offered at least four times a year. Information on course offerings and applications can be found at www.usfa.dhs.gov/nfa/nfaonline.
The Home Safety Council has developed a web-based presentation on evaluation through their Expert Network Academy. This module provides the reader with an overview on the types of evaluation and the program evaluation model. These presentations provide affordable training along with a certificate of completion. This can be accessed at www.homesafetycouncil.org/Academy/index.html.