ESDs are always at the risk of running into problems that could potentially lead to claims. The following are steps ESDs can take to reduce the possibility of claims:

Develop Policies and Procedures

Policies and Procedures are a set of documents that describe an organization’s policies for operations and the procedures necessary to fulfill them. They are often initiated because of some external requirement, such as governmental regulations.

To write effect policies and procedures, ESDs should:

  • Interview the users of the policies and procedures and create a flow chart or task map of the process from start to finish
  • Convert the information into a written format
  • Talk to the users and confirm that the written word matches the flow chart

Policies and procedures have many names including but not limited to business policies and procedures, standard operating procedures or SOP, or department operating procedures or DOP.

At a minimum, ESDs may benefit from having operational policies and procedures, which may include:

  • Operating procedures
  • Personnel management
  • Financial operations
  • Contracting for services, supplies, equipment, etc.

The following is a brief overview of the types of policies and procedures.

It may be wise to also consider developing policies and procedures for service related activities, such as:

  • Responding to fire and/or medical assist calls within and beyond the ESD’s boundaries
  • Cleanup following both fire calls and medical assist calls
  • Conducting fire prevention inspections
  • Inspections for fire hazards
  • Conducting and/or participating in training and fire prevention classes, emergency training and drills

Once the policy or policies are adopted, the ESD must ensure that any staff, volunteers, or other associates have read and understand the policies.

Operating Procedures

Each ESD employee and volunteer should receive adequate training to handle his or her job assignments. The ESD needs to work with staff, vendors, manufacturers, professionals, etc. to develop specific operating procedures that may identify:

  • Equipment operation and maintenance
  • Specific procedures for employees who operate trucks and equipment. This should include manuals for operation, maintenance and care of equipment, as well as procedures to protect the staff from injuries. For example, in order to avoid problems such as collapsing a water line or blowing out a hose, employees need to know the procedures for operating the pumps prior to hooking up to a fire plug and turning on the pumps.
  • Vehicle servicing, including oil changes, brake checks, batteries, etc.
  • Follow-up maintenance after fires and/or emergency calls. Who is to do what, how, and when? The equipment must be prepared for the next call.
  • Call response protocol
  • Who will be in charge and what will be the chain of command during each emergency situation
  • How to respond to a chemical, disease or other biological emergencies. For example, employees and volunteers may need training in how to handle victims and protect themselves as well as the victim.
  • Instructions for all activities, from entering a burning building to operating a jaws-of-life to transporting victims, in order to reduce the risk of injuries to personnel.

Personnel Management

The Board of ESD Commissioners is responsible for administering a written personnel policy that outlines the standards of conduct, job descriptions, general work rules, leave policies, benefits, wage and salary administration, purchasing rules, etc. An ESD and its contracting emergency services organizations should always have clear and legally complaint policies and procedures related to harassment and discrimination as well.

In the event that the ESD contracts for services, the contract should require the contractor to have operating and personnel policies and procedures, including job descriptions.