Systems Analysis Adds a New Tool To the Fire Service
The Editor’s Opinion Page
Systems analysis, which is what this issue is almost all about, was developed back in the 1950s and 1960s as a new tool for providing policy advice to the United States Department of Defense. “It provides an organized step-by-step approach to studying large systems such as a municipal fire department that contain many interacting elements and in which it is very difficult to determine the consequences of a change in policy,” according to Dr. Warren Walker (page 38) who elaborates on this theme.
Walker further states that the steps taken in a systems analysis are so logical that they are used by most people in making everyday decisions such as buying a car and planning a vacation.
You start out by identifying a problem area and then identify the objectives brought on by the problem. From there on, the analysis becomes a matter of selection and rejection until the probable solution is reached. But in between there is a lot of work—work that involves such relatively new terms (to the fire service) as mathematical models, computer technology and project teams. Walker’s article explains these terms and how they are used.
For some time now, all governmental units have been searching for a more efficient and less costly way to provide services. And they are turning increasingly to systems analysis for the answer. It would be well therefore for today’s (and especially tomorrow’s) fire chief to be well versed not only in the nomenclature of systems analysis but in its concept and practice.
We were glad to read that Walker recommended a project team (for a systems analysis project) that would include representatives of a city’s administration and the fire department, including union representatives. He also said that project teams should not be deliberative bodies that act on reports submitted by consultants, but that the teams should do a large share of the actual work.
Even when all steps of a systems analysis study have been completed and a solution apparently reached, there are still more factors to be considered—factors that are difficult to build into a systems analysis “model.” These are what might be called human factors such as political restraints, union pressures and community considerations.
Finally, it is refreshing to note that in Palmyra, Pa. (page 68), an all-volunteer fire department came up with a master plan that we feel should have value to other volunteer departments. No computers or sophisticated mathematical models were employed in setting up this master plan, but a systems analysis it is, involving a “logical step-by-step approach to solving a problem.”