Employees at the Snohomish County Fire District 7 work 24-hour shifts to serve the local population in this suburban community of Washington state located just 45 minutes north of Seattle.
The district’s 93 employees are described as family oriented, “a brotherhood of individuals” by their Deputy Chief of EMS Scott Dorsey. “Everyone is very close knit. When they come to work, it’s more than punching in, it’s a family that gets together for 24 hours,” says
But just like businesses across the country, Fire District 7 has suffered setbacks in this slow growth economy.“It didn’t hit us as quickly as the East coast,” Dorsey says. “It was like watching a wave come across the nation…and we didn’t know what to expect.”
All of the sudden, District 7 saw property values start to drop. Since the Fire Department is funded by tax assessment, this meant big impacts for Dorsey and his teams. The biggest downturn came in 2010 where projections for the department kept getting worse and worse. In fact, in the past two years, Snohomish Fire District 7 has seen a 19% reduction in property tax assessments. This meant many of the long-time employees were asked to retire. “It was hard to say goodbye, they were part of the family,” says Dorsey.
Dorsey knew it was time to change the way District 7 did business if they were going to survive. He started researching the operational efficiencies to identify areas for improvement. First stop was the supply room. Dorsey says typically employees would grab what they needed and sometimes they would record it, but often they would not. This meant a lot of guesswork when it came to ordering supplies and, as a result, many supplies were not ordered when needed and other supplies were expiring on the shelf. They were throwing away money and had little control over their inventory.
In June 2011, Dorsey conducted a formal analysis. Dorsey says it didn’t take a lot of convincing of the higher ups to start implementing a more efficient system. Dorsey and his team choose to use AmbuTrak, a Web-based inventory and asset management software designed specifically for the needs of fire-based EMS departments to accomplish their goals. The automated system now tells Dorsey when they are low on supplies and, better yet, those supplies show up a few days later on his doorstep. Rather than guessing how many medications are being used on each of their trucks, Dorsey and his team have the exact data and can alter the amount of supplies stored on the truck accordingly.
Getting employees on board with something new can be challenging. Dorsey says initially he received a lot of push back and employees protested that the process was too hard and took too long to complete. This is one reason Dorsey initially implemented the AmbuTrak system in just one station, the busiest one. He monitored it closely and gathered feedback often to find out what changes needed to happen. Once the process was fine tuned, the push back disappeared and operations ran smoother than ever.
"Before everything was a guessing game, we had to over guess to hope we got it all right. But now it’s a refined process and orders are based on needs instead of a guess,” says Dorsey.
Dorsey has rolled out the new software to all seven of his stations. Employee feedback is now positive and his teams say the system is easy to use. In addition, Fire District 7 is shooting for a 20% savings this year over last.
Visit AmbuTrak online for more information.