Skip to main content

Case Study

Strathcona County Emergency Services

Long-Term Station Planning Keeps Service A Step Ahead Of Rapid Community Growth

Strathcona County Emergency Services (SCES) turned to Darkhorse Emergency in 2009 to help validate the need for a third urban fire station. SCES has since used the predictive modeling capabilities in the Darkhorse Emergency decision making platform to keep station plans on track with ongoing community growth.


Strathcona County Emergency Services

  • Provides fire suppression, rescue, emergency medical
  • Serves Strathcona County, just East of Edmonton, with population of 98,000 (2018) and growing
  • 6 existing stations with 3 planned for future development


Rapid population growth threatened the service’s ability to meet performance targets


  • Diagnosed historical and current response performance
  • Modeled impact of growth on future response performance
  • Determined when and where to build stations to optimize current and future performance
The Challenge

Growth showed no signs of slowing. But response times did.

Between 2001 and 2009, Strathcona County’s population grew by more than 20%. The two urban fire stations in Sherwood Park (the largest hamlet in Strathcona County) were struggling to keep up with the increases in call volume and the large response area. Performance was suffering. SCES needed a way to illustrate the problem for senior management and city council, support its case for a new station in the short-term, and put plans in place to be well-positioned for ongoing growth in the long-term.

We asked Darkhorse to help us because of their proven expertise in emergency services and their reputation in predictive modeling.

Jeff HuttonFire Chief
The Solution

Taking the guesswork out of station planning.

Taking The Case

SCES leaned on Darkhorse Deployment predictive modeling capabilities to clearly illustrate its pressing need for additional resources and help set the stage for ongoing forecasting and long-term station planning. The work started with a historical data analysis that showed conclusively that the two existing stations in Sherwood Park would not be sufficient to meet response targets and that Strathcona County needed a third urban station sooner rather than later.

Addressing The “What Ifs?”

Next, SCES used Darkhorse Deployment to determine the best location for the proposed station. The model incorporated a road network forecast, a drive time analysis, and a projection of call volumes and call locations 15 years into the future. With a click of the button, SCES could see—and show decision makers—the impact and tradeoffs associated with choosing different locations for the new urban station. Everyone involved could ask, and instantly answer, all their “what if” questions.

Onward With Confidence

SCES opened its third urban station in 2013. A year later, the service was pleased to see that the projected impact on performance was within 1% of what had been predicted five years earlier. With ongoing training and support from Darkhorse Emergency, SCES continues to use Darkhorse Dashboard and Darkhorse Diagnostics tools to monitor and validate performance of its existing stations and ensure it is positioned to optimize future performance as the county continues to grow. The service has created three different development plans with future station locations based on different growth scenarios in different areas of the county. By regularly updating forecasts with the most recent census data, SCES can see when and where performance targets are in jeopardy. And it can adjust its timing for building the future stations to reflect the most up-to-date numbers.

When presenting to municipalities it wasn’t me saying ‘I think we should build a station here.’ It was me saying: ‘Mathematically, this is the optimal location for the next 50 years’. There’s really no room to argue that and it makes their decision super-easy. And it makes my presentation really fun.

Jeff HuttonFire Chief
The Result

Emergency service that won’t miss a beat.

Ultimately, with the ability to consistently monitor its development plans against actual population data, SCES can be confident that future station development will take place at the right time and in the right places.

With the Darkhorse Emergency platform, SCES:

  • Secured stakeholder buy-in for a third urban station in the optimal location
  • Monitors and validates the positive impact on response performance of the new station
  • Identified optimal locations for its next three stations
  • Can strategically schedule capital investments with a clear view to service level impacts
  • Has established an evidence-based culture that supports better decision making

The Darkhorse team understands analytics at a high level. They developed an incredible sense of our needs through professional inquisitiveness and providing us with clear descriptions of the work they were doing.

Jeff HuttonFire Chief
Subscribe for the latest Decision Analytics Insights