In the realm of Public Safety, few things are more important than communication. Without it, medics can’t be called, backup can’t be requested, coordination as a whole ceases to exist. Because of this, massive amounts of resources are invested to ensure reliable and constant means of communication are available to first responders. But what are the true costs of this “all out” approach to communications management? All too often, mismanagement of these resources leads to disorganization and inefficiencies that inflate operating costs, robbing other departments of much needed funding. In midst of all these budget hardships however, there remains a job to be done, and a tighter budget is no excuse for failure.
There used to be a time when budgets didn’t play such a large role in public safety discussions. While always seemingly tight, funding was sufficient for the most part. Sometimes losing a radio here and there was simply part of doing the job. However, turbulent economic times have forced government agencies to take a hard look at how they are spending money. Once thriving departments are now being forced to cut back on services, layoff personnel, and in some cases close altogether. Therefore it is up to decision makers to find ways to do more with less, and due to its large budget, many decision makers are turning to the communications department.
With a single radio costing upwards of $1,000, and entire systems sailing into the tens of millions, more money is often spent on communications than any other area of public safety. Therefore efficiency in this area, or lack thereof, can have a huge impact on the fiscal stability. By streamlining the processes by which communications equipment is tracked, managed and maintained, agencies can free up valuable funding, which can then be used in other areas. While 100% efficiency is somewhat of an unattainable goal, there are a few areas on which you can focus to help make sure your operation is being responsible with its resources.
Maintain Accurate Data
In the battle for efficiency, there is no substitute for accurate data. It is the foundation of any effective communications management operation. Knowing exactly what assets you have and where those assets are located is what allows you to begin identifying where inefficiencies may be lurking in your management process. Keeping tabs on each individual asset in your operation is no small task though. The life of a communications asset is one of perpetual change. Maintaining accurate asset data is a continuous job that requires well planned processes that allow you to capture and store the right information at the right times.
When done effectively, proper data management practices can yield valuable sets of asset data, which can then serve as the base on which an effective communications operation can be built. Accurate data is a sensitive thing however. It doesn’t take long for poor asset management practices to undo years of successful data management.
Implement Effective Workflow Processes
While accurate data is a big part of eliminating efficiencies, it is not the only thing. The processes by which assets are maintained can also play a huge role. From not tracking how much time is being spent on specific tasks, to maintaining a bloated workforce, inefficiencies here can rob you of valuable time and money, and wreak havoc on efficiency. When well planned and well executed however, efficient workflow processes can add hours to your day, free up people for other tasks, and ultimately save you money in the long run.
Bad workflow processes are even more damaging to radio shops that are performing work for outside agencies. Not only do they bleed resources due to inefficiencies, but they also miss out on potential revenue streams by billing for the work they perform. By implementing the right tools and processes, many radio shops are able to fully fund themselves, thus freeing themselves from the burdens of a tightening budget.
Put Your Data to Work
Once you have taken the time to implement effective data management and workflow processes, you can begin pinpointing where inefficiencies may be hiding in your operation. This is where the value of accurate data can truly be seen. By putting your data to work, you can be sure that if there is a particular area of your operation lagging in efficiency, you will know about it. It also gives you the visibility you need to make fact-based decisions about the direction of your operation.
When it comes to public safety communications, doing more with less isn’t just the smart thing to do; it’s the right thing to do. We live in a time where technology gives us the ability to store and share data like never before. Information that used to be confined to a file cabinet can now be shared instantly with anyone in the world. It can be analyzed and learned from. The public safety industry has a responsibility to the American people, and unnecessary waste of resources can no longer be tolerated. Its time we rethink how we manage communications. Its time we quit trying to work harder, and start working smarter. The technology is there; all it takes is a proactive approach and a willingness to change.