Analysis of Quality Assurance Method

Abstract

The core objective of this research paper will be to examine quality standards as applied by Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service. This research will gravitate towards a descriptive approach. Several quality assurance systems will be reviewed in this study and their application by the Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service. In conclusion, this research paper will make a number of recommendations to be considered if significant strides are to be achieved in service delivery. Besides, after reviewing the systems applied this paper will identify ways in which the research results can be dispersed.

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Introduction

Quality assurance is a method of ensuring set standards are met and possibly exceeded by organizations to keep focused on its major goals. This is done to ensure the ideal service by constantly advancing services delivered. Hoyle (2007) wrote that, quality is the extent to which a set of fundamental characteristics amount to prescribed standards that are predetermined, generally implied or obligatory.

Quality assurance systems are put in place to constantly or continuously check and evaluate the organization’s performance. This is accomplished by constantly carrying out reviews on service provision. Quality assurance can also be described as a practice of evaluating a given organization against what other similar organizations are doing according to Liston (1999). This is done through a set of documented and standard procedures. With quality assurance systems being developed and improved continuously, the organization needs to verify their adherence to them regularly.

Methodology

This research paper mainly relied on Integrated Risk Management Plan and reports from the Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service. These documents were used to compile data in this research paper. For the most part, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service will be studied, and its systems critically investigated.

Quality Assurance Systems

The productivity of any quality assurance applied by an institution solely depends on the preferred system. Most quality assurance systems will have specific areas of interest to concentrate on. Each system also provides a range of guidelines to be followed by organizations to ensure quality. These guidelines address issues surrounding areas of an organization’s work and operating environments. In the pursuit to achieve these quality standards, it is the organization’s responsibility to choose how to achieve the standards. This is because these systems do not use any set of predefined methods to achieve the standards. Hence, the necessity of deciding on the methodology of achieving this lies with the organization.

To make sure organizations adhere to these quality assurance guidelines, Vaughn (1990) notes that people from outside the organization must recognize these quality assurance systems to make sure they are properly followed and implemented. That means the people determine the guidelines set by the system and quantify the organization on its overall conformity to the guidelines. All systems do not use the external check; there are a few systems which are internally checked, meaning it is the duty of the organization to make sure the set standards are met to the highest level possible. The choice of the quality assurance system to be used depends on several factors.

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An organization needs to define the target that they wish to achieve and define ways of working towards it. Asher and kanji (1996) argue in their book that cost is a major factor that should be considered in deciding which system to acquire. This is important because external evaluation systems will be done at a cost. Applied quality standards should be cost-effective, achievable and appropriate and most of all, legitimate.

Incident Recording System (IRS)

Incident Recording System was introduced after the Local Government supported by Department of Communities and in cooperation with the Scottish government directed that all fire and rescue services in the UK put in place an electronic system of incident recording (IRS) as published by Great Britain (2007). Incident Recording System is an event recording system used by fire authorities to collect and validate data electronically at the source as described by Green et al (2005).

It is a development on the earlier manual data collection, which was slow and prone to errors. An advantage of fully automating the system is the high levels of accuracy and efficiency throughout the process starting from recording, authentication and assessment of results. Fire and rescue service providers received technical training on the system used to improve the IRS efficacy and were expected to disseminate the information to others. Serious fire incidents are collected and documented by the Department for Communities and Local Government by using this system. The data captured include deaths and injuries resulting from fires.

After data collection, Devon and Somerset upload the information to a web based form and information are verified at source. In doing so Green et al. (2005) note that less time is taken which enhances accuracy of the data collected that is later used for detailed analysis to allow improvements to be made so that similar incidents can be avoided in future. To ensure quality, the line manager passes the input data through quality assurance procedures.

Incident reporting system is used to perform the quality assurance after which the incident is said to be published according to a publication by Great Britain (2006). Publishing is the same as sending the incident form to the community for local government. During creation to completion, the electronic form remains with the CLG. Using the IRS, it becomes possible to print standard reports that can be used to make valid decisions. Retrieval of copies of the reports is also possible by the fire and rescue service staff and can be used in other systems.

Smeby (2006) argues that IRS has enormous benefits to the future of fire and rescue services. This is due to its robust nature, relevance and the timely data that enhance policy evaluation. IRS is a major boost to the way firefighting services are designed and delivered, given the simplified data collection procedures with only relevant questions being given to respondents the results publishing will be fast and quality. It will enhance the efforts being channeled to incidents by quantifying the real efforts being put towards incidents. Using the new system, IRS electronic filling of the forms will be fast and easy given the fact that most answers to the questions will be selected from a drop down list.

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The accuracy level of the data collected will be improved. However, inaccurate or poor filling of the forms could lead to the wrong statistics and hence wrong decisions in the future. For instance, the Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service has benefited from IRS in that there is a standardized reporting format, increased amount data collected meaning that very viable decisions can be made based on the rich information extracted from the data. It is possible to compare service delivery of Devon and Somerset fire and rescue with other fire and rescue services hence improving its operational performance especially using the special service data (Vaughn, 1990).

Using the quality assurance system, Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service staffs are well equipped with information and can liaise with the chief fire officer on the best methods to deliver Integrated Risk Management Plans (IRMP). Fire Service Emergency Cover (FSEC) can acquire its needed data from the IRS, with Devon and Somerset fire station able to access and use graphical reports for incidents.

Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP)

Devon & Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority as a self-governing body is mandated to ensure the local fire and rescue service delivers efficiently and delivers its service in the best interests of the community it serves and the general public. Besides that, the authority collects council tax allocated to the fire and rescue service according to Devon and Somerset (2010). The general public is responsible for putting checks on the fire and rescue service performance and its actions. With 85 fire stations and 2,300 committed staff, Devon and Somerset fire and rescue aims to ensure a safe community by minimizing cases of death, injuries and destruction of property by fires and other incidents. Using the IRMP, Devon and Somerset fire service can predict the necessary responses, plan for the appropriate resources and training.

Under the statutory requirement, Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service creates an Integrated Risk management Plan. This is a five-year plan on what the fire service intends to carry out. Devon and Somerset fire and rescue Service considers these set standards with great care. These standards depend on property types in a particular place. The Devon and Somerset Integrated Risk Management Planning revolves around saving lives by enhancing the safety of the public and trying as much to minimize incidents.

Devon and Somerset fire rescue and service regularly review its plan to ensure that it stays current on risk information contained according to Devon and Somerset (2010). Their focus mainly is on a plan that ensures people’s lives are put first, evaluating all the dangers posed by fires and emergency occurrences. It also covers the prospects of minimizing and controlling them.

Devon and Somerset IRMP has been put in place to assess the risks to life and property. This helps in making decisions on deployment of resources. It seeks to manage risks involved by focusing attention onto people first. Furthermore, its main objective is to prevent fires or similar incidents from happening. This means that there are clear plans instituted beforehand. The plans help ensure that appropriate response is offered to bear in mind characteristics of a location and always in a timely way.

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The plan is set to work through a number of phases. First, existing risks are identified. Then an evaluation is done to define the best way to counter the risks. Identification of improvement prospects is done and finally setting of policies and guidelines to be followed and allocation of resources. According to a Great Britain (2007) publication, over the past 7 years, it has been a requirement for all fire and rescue authorities to create a local IRMP, that stipulates the strategies laid down by the authority in conjunction with other agencies. This is done to reduce cases of severe fires, traffic accidents on the road including emergency incidents that occur in the jurisdiction of the Devon and Somerset’s authority.

According to Hughes and Ferrett (2009), Integrated Risk Management Plan also ensures there is a reduction in the number of casualties in fires, traffic accidents and emergency incidents. This plan has seen a reduction in the impacts of the fires commercially, socially and economically. Besides, safeguarding of the environment is well taken care of. Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service IRMP details the improvements and plans intended for fulfillment in the future and specifically, over a period of 5 years. This document reflects the local needs in dealing effectively with both existing and potential risks. To achieve this, Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service seeks to engage the residents, partners and all stakeholders.

Prince2

Projects in Controlled Environments commonly known as Prince2 are a quality assurance standard that’s process-based. It is mainly used for managing projects effectively. As a standard, prince2 has found wide application in the United Kingdom. The government applies the standard, the firms in the private sector and even by international actors. Projects that utilize Prince majorly focus on justification of the business and breaks up projects into convenient, controllable phases. Fox (2007) describes it as an approach that is based on the product and its quality.

Since its commissioning in 1989 by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency, which has since been renamed to OGC (the Office of Government Commerce), Prince has undergone several changes. Originally, PRINCE was designed based on PROMPT. This is a methodology for project management developed by Impact systems in 1975 according to a publication by Office of Government Commerce (2009). These quality standards were used by government information system projects since it was adopted by CCTA in 1979. In 1996, 150 European organizations came together and contributed to coming up with PRINCE2.

By using PRINCE2 quality assurance methods, organizations can achieve more efficiency in managing the business and assessing project risks (Bentley 2001, 198). There is also superior resource control using this system. Fox (2007) concludes that PRINCE2 is well known to provide procedures and a common language during project management. This minimizes the chances of errors and allows learning from errors made. It is an easy to learn system that has worked well with most organization’s that have seen its evolution since the early 80’s and saves an organization time, effort and money. The efficiency of this quality system is achieved through its focus on the why, when and for whom. The system defines the whole process and constantly checks the progress against the plan.

Health and Safety standards

Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service needs to invest equal efforts to health and safety guidelines just as it does to other core business operations. This will ensure the efficacy and efficiency in managing risks to avoid harm to people under working environments.

Ensuring that health and safety standards are met, Hughes and Ferrett (2009) dictate that there are key stages to be involved. That is policy, organization, planning, quantifying performance, audit and evaluation. Policies are set for organizations to adhere to hence achieving effective health and safety. These policies help by contributing to organizational performance and form part of proven gradual advancement. If followed to the letter, it ensures that there is a reduction in financial losses due to its systematic approach of conserving human resources. Organization is another stage in ensuring quality health and standards.

In this stage, the focus is on firm management structure whereby emphasis is given for workers to not only avoid immediate accidents but also take care of their health for long term. All the shareholders in an organization have a feeling of shared responsibility towards its goals, values and objectives. The management team is encouraged to foster a progressive health and safety culture.

Hughes and Ferrett (2009) state that “In implementing health and safety guidelines, planning is crucial and care has to be factored”. To achieve best results, policies must be implemented in a systematic approach. This means putting in place an effective system of managing health and safety standards. The main aim of planning is to ensure that risks are minimized if not eliminated, and in doing so, a positive health culture is cultivated.

Measuring performance tries to uncover the effectiveness of health and safety systems that are implemented through active monitoring. In cases where management fails reactive evaluation of the happenings, accidents or bad health reveals the causes. Regular audits are carried out to “test the functionality and the relevance of health and safety standards” as stated in the book by Hughes and Ferrett (2009). This involves an orderly review of the conduct of the system based on facts from external audits. Constant review promotes the development of new policies and improves the existing ones, with more emphasis put on methods used to counter risks. Annual reports are produced to show statistics.

Conclusion

To ensure quality for services offered by Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service, total commitment to set targets and systems is required. Constant assessment of the strategies governing these systems will ensure that positive progress is achieved. Though much effort has been focused on Incident recording system, application and enhancement of the Incident Reporting System should be emphasized as it will ensure quality service delivery for the Devon and Somerset Fire and rescue service. Moreover, focus on health and safety standards should also be improved, and a positive health culture encouraged.

References

Asher, M. and Kanji, Gopal K. 100 Methods for Total Quality Management. London: Sage Publishing Devon & Somerset., 2010. Fire and Rescue. Web.

Fox. C., 2007. PRINCE2: A No Nonsense Management Guide. Norwich: Van Haren Publishing.

Great Britain, 2006. Fire and Rescue Service 2005 – 06. London: TSO.

Great Britain, 2007. Fire and Rescue Service manual: volume 2. London: H.M. Fire Service Inspectorate.

Green. Kenneth et al., 2005. Evaluation of Auto Incident Recording System. Kentucky: University of Kentucky.

Hoyle. D., 2007. Quality Management Essentials. Oxford: Elsevier Ltd.

Hughes. P. and Ferrett. E., 2009. Introduction to Health and Safety at Work. Oxford: Elsevier Publishing.

Liston. C., 1999. Managing Quality and Standards. Berkshire: Open University Press.

Office of Government Commerce, 2009. Directing successful projects with PRINCE2. Norwich: TSO.

Smeby. C., 2006. Fire and Emergency Service Administration: Management and Leadership Practices. London: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Vaughn. R., 1990. Quality Assurance. Iowa: Iowa State University Press.

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