Implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for fire and EMS departments is one way to streamline internal operations by clearly defining what is expected and required of all personnel during an emergency response and other activities. SOPs set up a mechanism to communicate legal and administrative requirements, organizational policies, and strategic plans to each member. In other words, SOPs are a way to ensure every member is speaking the same language and working with the same game plan.
Developing effective SOPs for fire and EMS departments will require a different set of considerations when compared with the needs of a large business. In addition to comprising SOPs that cover fire suppression and emergency response, there should be a concerted effort to maintain an organized, well-equipped, and properly managed organization in a high state of readiness. Read on to learn how to create effective SOPs for fire and EMS departments and explore how SOP management software can help automate this process.
Creating procedural guidelines with SOPs
SOPs are only as effective as their content. If you are thinking about developing SOPs for your department, be aware that there’s a difference between a procedure and a set of instructions on how to perform an action. The best SOPs don’t tell your team how to do their job (how to use the technical skills they learned through education and training). Instead, SOPs should set up the parameters and rules that your team should follow while they perform their work. This is an important distinction because SOPs are meant to augment a team, not reeducate them.
For an EMS department, you may include guidelines for your drivers by having SOPs covering the use of seatbelts, permitted use of warning systems, intersection procedures, and vehicle placement at the scene. These guidelines have become increasingly essential to running a public service department. SOPs not only ensure your entire team is working under the same set of rules, but also provide a means to include county-specific laws and regulations. Therefore, SOPs also serve as a way to provide layers of operational guidance to comply with changing laws, regulations, and standards.
Examples of SOPs for fire and EMS departments
It shouldn’t be surprising that the majority of SOPs you are likely to create are not directly related to firefighting or emergency medical services. Management and administrative SOPs like general administration and organizational preparedness cover areas including facilities, finance, equipment, risk management, strategic planning, and SOP development. There are also auxiliary responsibilities, like building inspections and code enforcement, that are assigned by the city. Emergency response take up a relatively small section (see Table 1), but do also include procedures for disaster operations and the handling of hazardous materials.
Table 1. SOP topic areas: Emergency operations (from reference 1)
|Fire Suppression||Emergency Medical Response|
|Fire Suppression Risk Management||EMS Response Risk Management|
|Pre-hospital EMS First Response|
|Tactical/Strategic Guidelines||Patient Disposition and Transportation|
|Special Facilities/Target Hazards||Management of EMS Operations|
|Special Fire Suppression Operations||Special EMS Operations|
SOPs serve many important functions in fire service and EMS operations. When individuals perform department SOPs while on duty, they are better able to implement the laws, plans, agreements, and policies incorporated in the procedures. It is in this way that SOPs create a link between organizational policy makers, planners, administration personnel, and emergency service providers.
Get started on your department’s SOPs with a needs assessment and SOP management software
When you are preparing major changes to your department’s legal or operational procedures, a formal needs assessment will be in order. A needs assessment is essentially about answering two questions: What SOPs do we need, and do the current SOPs meet our needs? The type of SOPs required by your department is determined by examining your organization’s operating environment, standard of practice, and local needs. Fortunately, you have a lot of guidance in the form of industry standards, accreditation requirements, and Federal and state regulations. For the second question, know that it is normal to update SOPs on a continuous basis. SOPs that do not meet your needs should be edited or redesigned to reflect changes in the operating environment, standard of practice, or local needs.
Performing a needs assessment for your department and following through with the SOP creation process can be a daunting prospect. Without the right tools, the time commitment can be a barrier to entry for many departments. Instead, consider the use of a SOP management software that can help you streamline the entire process, including the need assessment. TotalCompliance® is a SOP management software that simplifies the way you manage your procedures through a centralized repository accessible by every member of your organization.
TotalCompliance® from ComplianceBridge is a cloud-based platform that allows you to import and create thorough SOP documentation that can be reviewed and approved by all stakeholders. Once each document passes through the appropriate checks, you can publish and notify specific members about its existence. Finally, the metrics and reporting tools enable you to quickly gauge compliance and spot areas that need your attention. You can even create your own detailed questionnaires and forms to incorporate monitoring and analytical elements all within the same platform (2). These features and more can help keep your department’s SOPs updated to meet evolving demands.
Interested in learning more about how TotalCompliance® can improve the way you test the effectiveness of your policies? Take a tour.
Developing Effective Standard Operating Procedures for Fire and EMS Departments.” FEMA. December 1999. Accessed October 4, 2017. https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/publications/fa-197-508.pdf.
“Powerful Policy Management Software from ComplianceBridge.” ComplianceBridge. Accessed October 4, 2017. http://compliancebridge.com/products/policy-management-software/.