The aim of this project is the proposed creation of a dedicated team of fire investigators within the Hampshire area. It is expected that through this initial paper, a detailed report could be created which would result in efficient and effective operations for the fire investigation team.
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The objectives of this project are as follows:
- Develop the necessary technology structure utilizing cost effective software so as to enable the fire investigation team to rapidly respond to structural safety concerns presented by the local citizenry. This is to be developed within the first month of the project’s inception.
- Determine what management practices should be present that can be utilized to create a rapid response team so as to investigate problematic areas that have been identified. This objective should be underway during the second month of operation after all personnel have been hired and brought up to date regarding local procedures and policies involving fire prevention.
- Create a crowd sourced method of fire investigation wherein people can report the source of potential fires for investigation by the fire investigation team. This crowd sourced method of investigation should be developed and implemented during the first 2 months of operation and must be functional by the third month.
- Create a risk management plan in order to ensure that proper procedures are followed when a hazard has been identified. After three months have passed and the proper management support practices are in place, it would be necessary to develop this particular objective.
- Envision what sort of community relations procedure must be present due to the importance of proper community relations in aspects related to fire hazard identification and management. This facet can be completed 6 months after the project’s inception once sufficient community knowledge and understanding has been developed regarding the fire investigation team.
Located on the Southern Coast of England, the county of Hampshire can be considered an amalgam of the old and the new. The area has had a long maritime history and contains two of the largest ports in England, however, the area is also home to many historic landmarks and seaside resorts due to its status as the former capital city of England.
It should be noted though that the sheer density of the local population (1,322,300) combined with the number of annual visitors (estimated at 7.5 million per year) has resulted in a considerable population density within some of the cities in the county with the old and new mixing together into cramped potentially disastrous combinations for fires.
While the Hampshire Fire and Rescue service (established in 1948) has done an excellent job in helping to contain the number of fires within the county, the fact remains that recent data on the number of fires within Hampshire show that 1 to 2 fires occur per month in far flung regions.
Due to the amount of time it takes to identify the location of a fire and to actually get there, it is often the case that property damage has reached an absurdly high level. It is due to this that a method of fire prevention needs to be enacted wherein potential fire hazards are identified early on and dealt with before escalating into a problem where fire trucks are needed.
Based on this, a team of fire investigators needs to be established within Hampshire in order to ensure that there is a means of prevention alongside current practices of Fire and Rescue Service which create a positive impact on the various regions within Hampshire County.
Should the board allocate the necessary amount of funds to bring this project about, not only will it help to reduce the amount of fires within the Hampshire region through better and more efficient fire investigation processes, but it would also help to generate greater public awareness and create the necessary policies so as to ensure that the work that the fire investigation team “lives after them”.
This will be in the form of better social awareness and enacted policies that ensure a safe environment free from the dangers of a sudden fire.
One of the main problems of fire prevention within most towns, cities, and urban areas is the proper identification of potential fire hazards before they become actual fires. AsBesner & Hobbs (2012) explains, the current level of population density within most urban areas has reached such an extent that properly investigating every possible area where a fire hazard is present is simply not feasible(Besner & Hobbs 2012, pp. 24-46).
Besner & Hobbs (2012) points to the fact that most fire and rescue services have merely 3 or 5 investigators present and they are often tasked with the determining the cause of fires and creating public service announcements or policies related to proper fire hazard prevention. They, in no way, could search an entire city or region even if the amount of personnel was increased by a factor of 10.
Fire departments often depend on the calls of local citizens regarding potential fire hazards in order to properly identify them, however, such calls are few and far between which often leads to potential hazards becoming actual dangers for people and property alike.
It is due to this that the proposed management system for the Hampshire Fire and Rescue service is the creation of a public crowd sourced method of fire hazard identification in order for fire investigators to follow potential leads and respond as necessary. The proposed public crowd sourced method of fire hazard investigation takes the form of a service similar to that of Ushahidi.com (which is African for “witness”).
This service utilizes current mobile phone architecture so that local citizens can identify “hotspots” on a map in combination with Google’s map service. Process such as these are more efficient than relying on human beings since they are not limited by human biology, rather they can be easily modified or adapted in order to perform ever more complex tasks.
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Such a feat is not possible with an average worker since they can neither be expected to move 10 times faster, grow 2 more heads or have 10 arms. Not only that, mobile phones are an ubiquitous aspect of many residents of Hampshire with many of them possessing smart phones that can connect to online applications.
By utilizing the Ushahidi application and placing a small message regarding the type of fire hazard present, an average citizen thus becomes an instrument that enables fire investigators to instantly know where potential fire hazards are present resulting in the creation of new policies or direct methods of intervention so as to address the problems found in the identified areas.
This would result in an efficient and effective method of addressing possible fire hazards thereby reducing their occurrence within the Hampshire region.
The activities for this project are as follows:
- Initial project inception wherein the incorporation of the investigators into the Hampshire fire and rescue department will be done.
- Hiring period of the fire investigators
- Training period for the prospective investigators
- Development and implementation of the crowd sourced fire investigation application.
- Promotion of the online application through local council initiatives as well as television and radio announcements that specifically target the Hampshire region
- Development of the scheduling and management system for the fire investigation team.
- Separating the investigation and search positions of the team on a revolving basis so as to ensure that all members of the team are familiar with the protocols and areas where reports of fires are concentrated
Through the work of Patanakul & Shenhar (2012), it was noted that proper staffing principles are necessary in order to ensure efficient operational procedures (Patanakul & Shenhar 2012, pp. 4-20). Staffing for this management plan consists of 6 full time fire investigators whose express purpose is to shift through the accumulated data brought in by the “Fire Control” application.
The staff for this project will be divided into the following:
- Supervisor – a supervisor will be necessary in order to develop the rotating schedule for field investigation and the examination of data sent in via the fire investigation application. A supervisor will also be necessary in order to help steer the course of the fire investigation so as to avoid complacency.
This involves the development of the necessary metrics that all members of the team must follow so as to continue to remain a part of the unit. Prospective candidates for this position must have at least 5 years prior experience in the public administration with some experience in dealing with fire and rescue operations.
- Senior Fire investigator – the role of a senior fire investigator is to lead those under him during search procedures on various areas within Hampshire. His/her primary purpose is to help transition the members of the fire investigation staff in to utilizing the proper safety procedures in conducting field examinations of potential fire hazards.
- Junior Fire Investigator – Consisting of four individuals, the junior fire investigator unit is in charge of conducting field searches and examining the data of reports submitted by the general public in order to determine patterns in areas that have been labelled as “fire hazards”. It is the responsibility of the unit to create an urgency list for investigations and to assist the senior fire investigator in all aspects of the investigation process.
Activities of the Staff
The general activities of the staff entails:
- observing fire hazard trends within local areas, identification of potential hazards under a priority scheme where red is the highest, green is the lowest and yellow is for various levels of urgency in between.
- Examination of current U.K. policies surrounding fire safety, current policies that are in place in Hampshire, the current legislative environment within the surrounding regions as well as the policies that are already in place in order to deal with fire hazards.
- Create new policies and proposals in order to deal with fire hazard trends within specific areas of Hampshire.
- Advocate the implementation of various types of local legislation in order to deal with the trends in fire hazards and safety.
- Staff for the project will be scheduled into two distinct types of activities on a weekly basis which they will exchange every two days. This consists of the activity mentioned earlier involving the analysis of submitted reports and the development of the necessary policies to address identified trends within particular areas.
- The second activity consists of the fire investigators physically going to locations that have been labelled as “high priority” in order to determine whether there is need for direct intervention to prevent a fire hazard from becoming a fire.
Earlier within this paper, it has been mentioned that the breadth and width of the Hampshire area along with the continuously increasing number of tourists and residents make it difficult if not impossible for the Hampshire Fire and Rescue department to arrive early enough to prevent consideration property damage from occurring.
It is based on this that by implementing a proactive means of identifying potential fire hazards early on this can help to reduce the overall number of fires that occur within Hampshire. It is estimated that on a yearly basis Hampshire actually loses 50 million pounds through fire related damage whether in urban or rural areas.
By implementing a fire investigation team, it would be possible to reduce property related damage to less than 5 million pounds and in the process save the lives of local residents. These benefits take into consideration a myriad of possibilities that may occur that would cause a fire to start.
Costs for this project would involve expenses related to hiring the 6 fire investigators, the subsequent weeks of training that would be necessary in order to get them up to speed with what the project requires as well as the promotion of the application in order to create the initial framework in the first place.
It is based on this that estimated costs for this project will entail at least 1 million pounds per year. This encompasses the salary and benefits for the 6 fire investigation personnel, the maintenance costs associated with maintaining the online server for the reports of the public, utilities costs as well as various expenses related to the daily operation of the department.
While it may seem that a million pounds is a considerable amount, when factoring in the nearly 50 million pounds in property damage within Hampshire that come about as a direct result of fire hazards, the amount of money necessary to fund the department seems downright cheap in comparison especially when factoring the potential lives that could be saved as a direct result of the project’s inception.
In total, the estimated cost of this project is £ 1,200,000 with the £ 1,000,000 being allocated for essential expenses while the £200,000 is for possible nonessentials that the fire investigation team may need.
Milestones for the company involve the following:
- Budget allotment and software development. This is the initial milestone needed to develop the project, it involves negotiations with Hampshire county city officials for the necessary budgetary allotment in order to hire the fire investigators as well as the purchase the necessary equipment, and pay for the daily utilities expenses necessary to keep operations going.
It is expected that this particular milestone should be one of the hardest steps given the current state of the U.K. financial system and the current budgetary restrictions local councils have to deal with.
- Hiring and training of the Fire Investigators. This milestone encompasses the hiring of the fire investigators necessary for the project to be put underway.
The training period of the fire investigators involving local fire protection policies and strategies as well as use of the software is expected to take 3 to 4 weeks at which point the fire investigators are expected to make recommendations regarding additional types of equipment they may need in order to properly perform their job (i.e. thermal sensors, temperature gauges etc.).
- Development of the scheduling system. In order for the fire investigation team to properly do its job, it would be necessary to develop a scheduling system to ensure that onsite (i.e. within the offices of the investigation team) and offsite responses to the fire hazard reports are made.
- Promotion of the fire investigation team and mobile phone based report system. The fourth aspect of this project involves the promotion of the fire investigation team to the general public and releasing the fire report application through the Apple iTunes store and the Android market place as a free application.
Risk Management Plan
In order to retain the fire investigators, it would be necessary to develop internal policies that allow a certain degree of flexibility when it comes to scheduling, time off and the implementation of worker based strategies for improving the performance of the project as well as various insurance policies such as health and life insurance due to the possibility of death and injury while working.
Possible risks associated with this particular project come in the form of:
- On the job dangers such as being within a building or near an area that has been reported by the general public as possessing a high likelihood of bursting into flames.
- Resentment on the part of property owners involving a search of their property by the fire investigation team due to the possible presence of a fire hazard.
- Various health risks related to smoke inhalation, particulates and chemical fumes that are a regular aspect of job of this particular nature.
In order to resolve such risks the following solutions have been developed in order to manage them:
- Providing each fire investigation team with the necessary thermal and chemical detectors in order to be able to investigate an area from a reasonable enough distance to ensure their safety.
- Sourcing a variety of protection fire and chemical protection equipment such as flame retardant suits and gas masks to ensure that during the process of searching a property the investigation team is not exposed to potentially harmful substances.
- Lastly, all members of the fire investigation team will be given a special warrant backed by the local city council to be able to investigate areas that have been identified as potential fire hazards. This ensures that local property owners cannot violently (without serious repercussions) harm a member of the fire investigation team during the process of investigation.
Associated costs for these protective measures is estimated at 200,000 pounds and is included in the yearly operational budget.
Documents Management Plan
All documents will be managed in accordance with the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s document management system
Besner, C, & Hobbs, B 2012, ‘An Empirical Identification of Project Management Toolsets and a Comparison Among Project Types’, Project Management Journal, 43, 5, pp. 24-46, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost.
Matthews, R, & Marzec, P 2012, ‘Social capital, a theory for operations management: a systematic review of the evidence’, International Journal Of Production Research, 50, 24, pp. 7081-7099, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost.
Patanakul, P 2013, ‘Key Drivers of Effectiveness in Managing a Group of Multiple Projects’, IEEE Transactions On Engineering Management, 60, 1, pp. 4-17, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost.
Patanakul, P, & Shenhar, A 2012, ‘What project strategy really is: The fundamental building block in strategic project management’, Project Management Journal, 43, 1, pp. 4-20, Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost.