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Strathcona County Emergency Services (SCES) provides fire suppression, rescue, and emergency medical services to Strathcona County residents. SCES turned to Darkhorse Analytics to show senior management and city council how population growth has impacted emergency response times, and how this growth would impact future response times.

The Challenge

Between 2001 and 2009, Strathcona County’s population grew by over 20 per cent. As a result, the two urban fire stations in Sherwood Park (the largest hamlet in Strathcona County) were having difficulty maintaining their response performance targets. Both call volume and the response area had increased significantly in a short period of time. “

“We asked Darkhorse to help us because of their proven expertise in emergency services and their reputation in predictive modeling.” – Vern Elliot, Deputy Fire Chief

The Solution

Darkhorse Analytics embarked on a two-pronged study to look at the historical response performance of Strathcona County, and then to predict how it would change in the future. The historical data analysis showed conclusively that the two existing stations in Sherwood Park would not be sufficient to meet response targets. Strathcona County needed a third urban station.

Next, Darkhorse developed a model that would 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.

Finally, Darkhorse wrapped these analyses into a simple, interactive location tool. SCES wanted decision-makers to be able to test the best solution and compare it to other “sub-optimal” locations.  This provided decision-makers with the ability to quickly understand the complex political, economic, and risk tradeoffs that their job requires.

“The Darkhorse team understands analytics at a high level. They developed an incredible sense of our needs through professional inquisitiveness and by providing us with clear descriptions of the work they were doing.” – Vern Elliot, Deputy Fire Chief

The Results

SCES used the analysis and tool to support its business case for a new station. Being able to quickly demonstrate the value of the chosen location (as compared to other options) was particularly useful in garnering stakeholder buy-in.

Construction of the new station was completed in 2013, and by 2014, SCES was able to evaluate its impact on response performance. SCES was pleased to see that the projected impact on performance was within one per cent of what had been predicted five years earlier.

“The station location program was first used to show SCES staff what the data meant. From there, we used it to work with senior administration and Council, showing the impacts of growth and a best-case scenario for the station location. The predicted response performance was very accurate.” – Vern Elliot, Deputy Fire Chief

Daniel Haight

Daniel Haight

Daniel Haight is the President and co-founder of Darkhorse Analytics and Darkhorse Emergency Services. He is a Certified Analytics Professional and an award-winning lecturer at the University of Alberta School of Business. His current work focuses on predictive analytics and data visualization. His goal is to help managers make better decisions by combining their experience with the power of analytics. His even bigger goal is to design a company where Monday mornings are more exciting than Friday afternoons.

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