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Coffee Break Bulletin

Evaluating Your Need for New Technology

Posted: Dec. 11, 2018

Tips to help you assess if new technology is right for your fire/EMS department

Your city management loves technology. They believe that systems using the latest technology are the best, most cost-effective ways to provide services to the community. Your chief has charged you with integrating technology wherever possible: you must evaluate new tools, applications and software and make informed recommendations on whether to adopt them or not.

Today, fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) systems are integrating technology to reduce personnel demands, train members, improve emergency operations, reduce community risk, and change the way we respond to incidents. However, just because a new tool or application exists does not mean that your organization can benefit from it!

Integrating new technology into organizations requires careful analysis and evaluation. Your assessment should include:

  • An examination of the problem that technology might help to solve.
  • Identification of all possible solutions.
  • A full evaluation of each solution to determine the best fit.
  • Implementation considerations.
  • An evaluation of maintenance requirements, including software updates.
  • A recommendation to purchase or not purchase.

Use a grading rubric to assess technology purchases

To help you evaluate technology purchases, consider using a grading rubric like the one below. A rubric makes assessing the appropriateness of technology easier and provides a basis for further evaluation.

Sample grading rubric for assessing new tools or technologies

Consider the characteristics below when assessing new technology and its impact on your organization. Score each characteristic on a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high).

CharacteristicQuestions to considerScore
  • Is the tool/technology easy to use?
  • Is it intuitive for users?
  • Will it integrate easily with existing tools/ technologies?
  • Will it integrate with our culture and/or mission?
  • What does it do that we can’t already do?
  • Does it do something we already do, but better?
  • Does it improve efficiencies?
  • Is it cheaper than our current solution?
  • Are there data storage issues? Does it impact security and safety?
  • Does it impact the health and safety of personnel?
  • Is there a learning curve?
  • Does there need to be continual training or use to remain proficient?
  • Does lack of proficiency lead to unacceptable health or safety concerns?
Hard costs
  • How much will be spent purchasing the new tool/technology? What are the training costs?
  • Does additional equipment need to be purchased to support the new tool/ technology?
  • Will it fit into our existing equipment/ facilities?
  • Are there subscription fees or maintenance contracts?
Soft costs
  • How much time will be spent on initial training?
  • How much time will be spent on training to remain proficient in the use of the new tool/technology?
  • Will it be more difficult/costly to support than existing/other tools/technology?

Total the scores in the right (last) column.

Total scoreAssessment
12 or lowerMay not be an appropriate solution.
13 - 16May be an acceptable solution. Additional research is needed.
17 - 21Likely is an acceptable solution.
22 - 25Likely fills a critical need in the organization.

Action step to find out more about fire/EMS technology

Consider applying for these National Fire Academy courses to learn more about the role of technology in fire and EMS:

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