DENVER – Denver’s fire department has made significant improvement in analyzing the necessary resources to respond to the city’s rapid growth and in making long-term plans for risk management, according to today’s follow-up report from Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA. However, the Auditor remains concerned about the department’s ability to replace staff over time after the department assessed hiring and scheduling practices as recommended but was denied a request for 17 new firefighters in the budget.
“I am pleased to see the fire department taking our recommendations seriously and making efforts to plan for the future,” Auditor O’Brien said. “However, the city needs to support the department’s needs for growth as Denver continues to grow.”
A 2016 audit of the fire department’s resource allocation practices found a data-driven process that included efforts to continuously improve and incorporate advanced technology for emergency services. However, there were weaknesses related to growth and planning for the future.
Since then, the fire department has made improvements by implementing three of our original recommendations and is working to implement the remaining two. The department now has a strong strategic plan for the future.
The first recommendation involved ensuring staffing levels keep pace with continued growth in the city and with attrition that occurs through events such as retirement. This is important because the department needs a robust staff to meet fire-safety inspection goals and reduce reliance on overtime spending. To address this concern, the department analyzed academy class scheduling, as well as other factors such as firefighter injuries, retirement and unforeseen circumstances.
Based on this analysis, the department submitted a budget request for 17 more firefighters in 2018. Though the budget request was not approved, the department plans to keep working with the executive director of the Department of Public Safety on the issue.
“Denver is growing, and our fire department needs to grow with it,” Auditor O’Brien said.
The follow-up report also noted a newly updated and formalized strategic plan to guide and improve long-term decision making. The original audit recommended the plan, including defined results-oriented performance measures. These types of plans can better help managers assess whether resources are used effectively to achieve the department’s mission. The fire department now has a plan through 2020 with six long-term strategic goals: strengthening the department’s professional environment, increasing training opportunities, enhancing business processes, improving the quality of emergency response, increasing community preparedness, and updating infrastructure, equipment and technology.
“I am glad my team was able to work with the fire department to help improve planning for resource allocation and get it ready for long-term growth along with the rest of the city,” Auditor O’Brien said.
The fire department also developed a risk management framework to better understand the impact on departmental operations and the broader community.
The follow-up report recognizes there is still work to do to provide documentation of reviews of cost-benefit analysis for intergovernmental agreements. The department also needs to include complete and comprehensive documentation of indirect costs factored into the analysis of intergovernmental agreements.