Explaining the Asterisk Behind Your 2020* Data

Author: Tim Nowak


2020* will forever have an asterisk behind it in terms of data management – including call volume trending, operations-finance relationships, overtime expenditures, sick time usage, disposable supply increases, (lack of) revenue generation, and just about EVERYTHING fire & EMS related.

As fire & EMS chiefs, we get it. We’ve seen the impact. Now, it’s our responsibility to both explain it and re-trend based off of it.

For many fire & EMS departments, call volumes saw a large overall drop as the year progressed past March. When most departments typically see an increase in May-June-July volumes, upwards of 50 percent decreases were experienced as 2020* progressed. This translated to a loss of ambulance transport revenues, decreased ambulance supplemental payment program (ASPP) returns, and a now significantly higher cost-for-service average because the denominator by which costs were divided decreased (total calls, total transports), while the numerator (the costs/expenses) increased.

2021 brought for many a return to “normal” numbers. Call volumes certainly increased from 2020*, but not all were in-line with 2019 values or pre-2020* trending patterns. So, now we are faced with having to explain the data (going forward).

Call trending (or any other value trending, for that matter) must be approached differently for the next few years, which will account for (1) actual volumes/trends (which include 2020* data), (2) pre-2020* trends that “skip” 2020* (as if “2020* never happened”), and (3) pre-2020* trends that rapidly get your agency back “on track” to meeting those original trends. Below are some example tables & figures to visualize this (showing EMS call volumes).

At the end of the day, DATA + CONTEXT are going to be the key behind trending and translating what happened in 2020* and how it impacts your department’s future growth. As a fire/EMS chief, how you share that story in light of the data will likely impact the course of your own career, too.

Posted by Rachel Ray

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