By Scott Burnette, Fire Chief, Asheville, North Carolina
Evaluating performance during emergencies has inherent challenges. The dynamics of a structure fire, hazardous materials release, or technical rescue, do not allow for easy measurment of tasks. Outcomes certainly can be measured, and are the best measurement for identifying alignment of a program's objectives, however the output measures are difficult to capture.
The reason that outputs are important to measure is so that fire departments can drill down into the "why" of the outcomes. If we know that we confine fires to the room and contents of origin 75% of the time, then we know only where we stand relative to our desired outcomes. If we want to know why we succeeded or failed in achieving our outcome, then we must measure tasks or outputs.
One method to measure these outputs is through critical task analysis. Critical task analysis is identifying the critical tasks that must be accomplished to successfully mitigate an emergency incident. These tasks for a structure fire would typically include forcible entry, accessing the fire, establishing a water supply, ventilation, fire attack, etc. These tasks can then be measured in a training environment and a fire department can identify which tasks need improvement.Iif a fire department is taking excessive time with forcible entry, improvement in that area will improve the overall outcomes that are desired.