Useful Tools & Resources

There are some useful tools and resources that should be considered before undertaking the risk assessment process:

Human Resources—individuals both within and outside the fire department can be valuable resources. While firefighters may be tapped for their fire and EMS expertise, there may be individuals within the department with other unique skills, such as writing, graphic design, experience in statistical analysis, and other abilities. Private individuals and government employees with knowledge and skills in data analysis, population studies (demographics), crime rates, and other talents, should be sought out.

Word-processing software—an application such as Microsoft Word® will be necessary to document the results of your assessment in a format that can be easily read and interpreted by others, as well as for continuing the planning process. Most popular word-processors can incorporate images, create tables, and import information from spreadsheet applications.

Spreadsheet software—a computer application such as Microsoft® Excel or similar spreadsheet-type program will enable detailed analysis from a variety of data sources. A feature found in such programs is the ability to generate pivot tables from the information stored in the spreadsheet. Among other functions, a pivot table can automatically sort, summarize, count totals, or give averages of data. Pivot tables can make calculating and viewing data much quicker and simpler. Spreadsheet applications are usually capable of creating a wide variety of charts and graphs that can be used in the analysis and written reports. For those with limited or no experience with spreadsheet applications, it would be well worth the time to take a training course to learn the basics, including the use of pivot tables. Or recruit an experienced analyst from within local government or from a partner organization.

GIS software—a geographic information system application (GIS), such as ArcGIS® (Esri, Inc.), is an extremely valuable tool for conducting a risk assessment. More than just generating maps, it provides the power to manage data, perform advanced analysis, and much more. GIS applications can import incident data, demographic information, and other electronic records to produce a visual perspective of activity within your service area.

GIS software typically requires advanced training in order to utilize all of its features. Most fire departments do not have internal staff qualified to use such applications. However, many local government organizations have GIS departments or experts that can be recruited for assistance in generating useful maps. For those who have access to ArcGIS® Online, Esri provides an add-in tool that will generate maps using Microsoft Excel® and, if desired, copied into PowerPoint® for presentations.