Making Improvements and Reaching Goals with Fire and Rescue in Monrovia, CA

What gets measured gets managed.

With its roots dating to a small, all volunteer department founded in 1906 (later formalized as a City Department in 1910), Monrovia Fire & Rescue now serves the 36000+ residents of Monrovia, CA. Nestled in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, and with the Angeles National Forest serving as it’s northern border, Monrovia is a suburban community in Los Angeles County that offers businesses and residents easy access to Pasadena and Los Angeles, with a lower cost of living.

The Department focuses their external and internal efforts under the umbrella of their core values, PRIDE (Professionalism, Responsiveness, Integrity, Dedication, Ethics). Fire Chief Brad Dover places an emphasis on maintaining fiscal responsibility while capitalizing on opportunities to improve service and efficiency. It was by capitalizing on the implementation of a mySidewalk Performance Management Dashboard, that Chief Dover saw a 10% improvement in goals met.

Although one of the better outfitted departments, Chief Dover wanted to improve how his department utilized data and metrics to not only ensure safety and response within their community, but to strengthen the already established trend toward performance management and risk reduction efforts. There was a desire to have a product that helped them answer their existing questions, and to help take the ‘gut work’ out of determining what their data means.

Faced with the challenge of tracking their performance metrics without a dedicated data analyst they were, like many departments, stretched too thin. They needed help with the heavy lifting so their focus could remain on operations. Chief Dover knew that if he gave more of his time to analyzing and collecting the data and metrics, that something else in the department would suffer. Additionally, they were only looking at the previous 3 months of data, so they lacked the ability to see the full picture. The manual work of organizing Excel sheets and collating pulled Chief Dover from other priorities, and wasn’t providing enough insight to achieve City Manager Oliver Chi’s directive of adopting data for outcomes.

They needed to be able to determine not only what the issues were, but how to eradicate them. Were they doing the best with what they had? While new equipment seems at first blush to be a solution to response times or concerns in the department, it isn’t always the right answer, and it is often the most expensive. They needed the data and the numbers behind each step of the response process. And they needed a clear and repeatable way for Chief Dover to share the data with his team — to help track and hopefully improve upon their goals, and with the City Manager’s office — to advocate for both resources and additional support if necessary.

Without effectively measuring and tracking their goals, managing toward them was proving to be difficult.

After partnering with Chief Dover and determining the needs of the Department, and obtaining their dispatch data from Verdugo Dispatch, mySidewalk provided a Fire Performance Management Dashboard for Monrovia that lets us step in as a de facto additional team member. In fact, we provided two: an external facing dashboard that the Department can share with stakeholders and residents that shares data and visualizations at the incident level, including types of calls and volume; and an internal facing dashboard that while showing the incident data, also shares goals, progress and response reports. This duality allows them to use the same data sets in two different ways.

By providing them with 5 years of data, not just 3 months, they’re now able to see the long-term picture of their outcomes and responses. We can now provide Chief Dover with the data needed to not only track the Department’s goals, but begin to make informed decisions based on the metrics. And he now has a clear, compelling and fully ADA compliant transparent reporting platform to share with his community. All while being free to reprioritize time on additional operational efforts.

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By focusing on measuring the core metrics and providing to departments like Monrovia Fire & Rescue the visualized data they need, we are able to deliver a product that highlights that many of a customer’s goals are well within their control — they just didn’t know they aren’t meeting them. The data in Monrovia’s Dashboard lets Chief Dover determine how close, or how far, they are from their goals, and then manage against them. Knowing the goals exist is only part of the equation. Effective Departments need to be able to easily track toward them.

Monrovia Fire & Rescue is now using their visualized data to try and make different and informed decisions. Not only is the integrity of the data not in question, but we’re able to show them things they didn’t see before. Additionally, the Department used their Dashboard to help highlight to their City Council why they do what they do during an internal study session.

“We use the dashboard to show the thought and science behind what we do,” said Chief Dover. “The fire service is good at measuring stuff, but we need to correlate that to an outcome — an improvement or something that’s not working. Just having the mySidewalk Dashboard available gives us a living, breathing look at what’s happening so we can find outcomes.”

Fire and emergency services tend to make shifts toward a greater emphasis on data focused processes and outcomes for one of two reasons: either because an incident or concern arises that causes them to invest the time and resources; or, as was the case with Monrovia, when strong leadership makes the decision to drive outcomes and success with data. This concerted effort is not going unrewarded.

After launching their Fire Performance Dashboard, Chief Dover’s Department saw a 10+% improvement in goals met. (Insider scoop: their neighbors in Alhambra are also seeing a similar uptick in improvement in goals since launching their mySidewalk Dashboard!) This bump in improvement helps position the Department to become proactive in their outcomes and success.

“We used to be a response oriented agency. Now, the majority of our time is spent on community risk reduction and pre-incident mitigation,” said Dover.

Monrovia Fire & Rescue’s innovative use of their data outcomes, and willingness to adopt a new methodology has helped position them as a data thought leader in their City’s government. Because of the success that Chief Dover and his team are now seeing, and the informed decision structure they now utilize, Monrovia’s City Manager, Oliver Chi, brought mySidewalk’s capabilities into his office too. We are now partnering with the Monrovia City Manager’s office to develop an Operational Performance Management Dashboard for his office, which will allow them to track, analyze, and communicate their data as effortlessly as the Fire & Rescue Department.

See the public dashboard at Monrovia, CA Incident Report.