In today’s Public Safety environment, Policies and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are the foundation for ensuring an agency is maintaining best practices in operations, core competencies, training, quality assurance, technology and standards. Often these documents become the “bible” for an agency because it provides the do’s and don’ts in all levels of administration and operations, providing structure and guidance for personnel. They also provide protection from agency and individual liability because they follow the guidance and requirements from CJIS, NIFRS, NIBRS NENA, DHS, NFPA, and APCO.
For some agencies, these documents can be outdated based on when they were adopted, and often have processes woven into them that are now obsolete. Typically, many policies are only updated during an audit or accreditation process.
It is important that agencies develop a process and schedule for reviewing and updating policies and SOPs. A call taker or dispatcher following an outdated policy can have operational impacts that affect the safety of the first responders and the timely deployment of the first responders. It can also cause issues with the quality of the work products, employee productivity and ISO ratings.
Policies should be reviewed at least annually, and whenever there is a change in management, programs, procedures, systems, equipment, regulations, and standards. Policies and SOPs should be reviewed as part of the process for identifying and implementing new technology or equipment, for example NextGen 911. Any change, even those may seem minor, can completely alter personnel, information technology, and operations management, requiring a revision to current policies, or even eliminating the need for a specific policy. Prior to COVID-19, the thought of answering 9-1-1 remotely from a Telecommunicators home was considered futuristic and costly. Agencies that successfully implemented this capability should have revamped their call handling process flow procedures and policies for remote 9-1-1 and developed new polices for call taking and dispatch from home, procedures for at home technology and location set up, breaks, remote supervision, video monitoring, notifications, and system failures.
Agencies, regardless of their size, should create a schedule for policy and SOP review. Larger agencies with an accreditation or training division may find these divisions can easily manage this task because they work with these documents daily. Other agencies may assign each division within the department their section for review. Creating a structured process with timelines for each policy review will streamline the process and provide accountability for the individual or division responsible for the review.
Finally, revising a policy and SOPs is not enough. Agencies must publish the revised or new policy in a platform that ensures all personnel are notified and can track their receipt and acknowledgment that it was read.
Winbourne Consulting has assisted numerous agencies in developing and updating their operations, core competencies, training, quality assurance, technology and standards policies and in the creation of Standard Operating Procedures.
For additional information, contact Winbourne Consulting at firstname.lastname@example.org.