Author: Tim Nowak
Outside of your fire department or EMS agency’s website, how else do you communicate your system’s performance? Do you use call volume trends, positive feedback, and other reporting measures?
Via your social media page? How about monthly commission or board meetings? Do these monthly or once-in-a-while snippets accurately portray the highlights, challenges, and objective data of your organization over the long-term?
I would venture to say, “no.”
In that case, what medium serves as your official “state of the art” address to your community and its stakeholders each year?
Here’s where creating an Annual Report takes a necessary center stage, and here’s four reasons why your organization needs to not only create one, but publicly promote it, too.
Intrigue the eye …
Getting the attention of a City Council member, concerned citizen, or interested financial donor won’t be done with pancake breakfasts, social media posts, or with a cry for more staffing/volunteers during EMS Week. Those that are looking to make informed decisions want something more tangible – substantial – to wet their analytical and objective palate. Here’s where a comprehensive, in-hand (or on-tablet), and visual document will pique their interest and catch their eye. If you go through the work to make it, those that are truly interested will take the time to fully read it!
Recap your year
What makes last year any different than those prior? Why are you still asking for a budget increase to fund for a new station, apparatus, or equipment?
Without something tangible – objective – in front of individuals who choose to be informed, all you leave open is the possibility of speculation (and imagination). When you influence the content that others see by recapping your recurrent hardships – based on downward funding trends in spite of upward capital or equipment costs – you’re able to show consumers the reasoning behind what your past year looked like, and why.
Considering this, it doesn’t all have to be negative. Perhaps your fire department or EMS agency started a new community risk reduction program that focuses on outreach, wellness, and navigation for its high-risk citizens. That’s a great accomplishment … so, highlight it! Then, next year, talk even more about its continued positive impacts (and how much it’s grown).
Set the pace for next year
While the bulk of your Annual Report is focusing on what happened in the year prior, the later portion of the report should highlight what’s anticipated to come. Hopefully this will be positive, but don’t be afraid to talk about some of the negatives, too.
If you’re buying a new engine to replace an older model, point out that the current piece of apparatus has been in service for “20 years” and has responded to over “X-thousand calls” during its lifespan. Or, if you’re in need of a new ladder/quint apparatus, make mention that you anticipate seeking capital funding to replace your current “1997” apparatus, which has met its recommended service life and is “beginning to exceed anticipated maintenance costs.”
Set the pace for what next year is shaping to look like. If you don’t shed light on your anticipated needs now, then it’s easier for others to criticize you for “never bringing this up before!”
Allow for a comparable to others
I’m a consultant … I value numbers, data, and comparables … and your Annual Report is a great source of each!
My own data-greed aside, local community leaders also want to see how their neighboring services are performing.
What is the success rate of heart attack recognition by your crews? Can your neighbors say the same?
What is your call volume per population, or what percentage of times did your fire inspection crews have to complete a second (re-inspection) visit at local businesses, and why?
How about response times (although WE don’t like these numbers, your constituents still do!)? Better yet, break these numbers down by lights & siren response versus no lights & siren to show the (minimal) difference and begin to set the stage for why you run “hot” less to calls.
Annual reports are all about information. When you provide the information – officially – you’re able to set the context in which it is both consumed and perceived. Without this medium, consumers (elected officials, citizens, and stakeholders) will certainly find this information, but it may not be in the fashion that you would “officially” approve.
Please visit IAFC’s website or contact PCG for a copy of Tim Nowak’s presentation on The Art of Creating Positive Impressions for Annual Reports presented live on August 18th, 2021.