Fire Service PIO: Activity Reports Show What Your FD Is Doing
When I was the public information officer (PIO) for the Atlanta, GA, Fire Department in 1993, the fire chief asked me to devise a way to show the city council how busy the fire department really was. We were using a newsletter, memos and, in some cases, video, but he still felt the message was not getting through.
I came up with the idea of a report that would be sent to the city council each day showing the previous day’s activities. We called it the Daily Activity Report. Simply, it showed how many building fires, vehicle fires and emergency medical calls we responded to, along with a few other statistics. At the bottom of the report we listed the total number of responses for the previous day (or shift) and the total number of responses for the year to date.
Within a few days, the fire chief received calls from various members of the city council who said they did not realize how busy the department was. They were astonished at the numbers. Each day, as the report went over to City Hall, he received more calls. The next time the chief went to the city council to ask for more firefighters, he was given 40! That was more than had been hired in quite a while. The reason the city council supported hiring more firefighters was they saw how busy the fire department is on a daily basis and they saw the types of calls firefighters were handling.
The Daily Activity Report continued until 1996, when I left Atlanta to work for Las Vegas, NV, Fire & Rescue. It was not until 2009 that I suggested I do the same for Las Vegas, only now the report is even more detailed. My objective is to show how involved the department is with the community, plus I include weather information as well as notices about upcoming special events, road closures or anything else that could affect department personnel or responses. The report is sent each morning by email to every elected official in the city, city department heads, every member of our department, the news media and a significant number of special-interest groups and citizens who ask to be added to the list. The report generates news stories and makes city officials, department personnel and the public aware of our activities.
Regardless of what type of department you are or its size, you can generate some type of activity report. And it need not be daily; it can be weekly or monthly. You can also do all three.
The reports can be simple or highly detailed; that is up to you. From experience, I have found it to be some both. For example, I used to list different categories for fires, such as building, vehicle or outside. The numbers are larger if you put every incident in one listing of fire. You can do the same with rescues, medical responses and other types of calls. I also give added attention to the special teams on our department so I made a separate listing for technical rescue, hazardous material and bomb squad calls. For all other responses, I use the category of “Other Calls.”
I have one listing for our 9-1-1 center to show how many dispatches are made each day. This proved to be an interesting statistic as it serves as a barometer of activity. Our Fire Alarm Office averages 735 dispatches each day. If we have more than that, it was a busy day; fewer dispatches mean it was a quieter day. If we get into the 900s, then it usually is an indicator that something significant occurred that day, such as a storm that went through the area or it was a holiday such as the Fourth of July.
I also list the activities planned for the day, such as visits to schools by crews, fire safety talks, fire station tours or any other public relations event. Last, I include the day’s weather forecast. This is intended for the crews mostly, so they know how the weather will be during the shift.
If any special events are coming up, that is also listed to remind everyone it is upcoming.
I also compile a weekly report to cover areas that cannot be included in the daily report, such as public relations event totals, fire prevention inspections, fire prevention plan reviews, public education and information events, multiple alarms and a review of significant events that occurred that week. This covers the rest of the department and its services.
We post our activity reports on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LasVegasFD for the public to view. Visit our page to see examples of our daily and weekly report.
TIMOTHY R. SZYMANSKI has been in the fire service for 41 years and is the Public Education & Information Officer (PEIO) for Las Vegas, NV, Fire & Rescue. He has worked in every position from firefighter/paramedic to fire chief. Szymanski is a Nevada-certified Fire Service Master Instructor and holds national and state certifications in many areas of the fire service. He has received numerous awards, including the 2008 Liberty Mutual National Firemark Award for Community Education and the Community Service Award from the Nevada Broadcasters Association. He was the Fire & Emergency PIO during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. His website is www.firepeio.com and Twitter at firepeio.
Connect with Tim
Activity reports generate news stories and makes city officials, department personnel and the public aware of our activities.
Inside Firehouse Webcasts