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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Oct. 23, 200212:00 PM EST

Fire department receives high ratings

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by: Mike Sharkey

by Mike Sharkey

Staff Writer

According to the most recent Jacksonville Fire & Rescue customer service questionnaire, the department has an approval rating of over 90 percent. The monthly survey was sent to 300 of the department’s most recent “customers” and, while only 59 were returned, the responses indicate an overwhelming number of those needing assistance were more than pleased with every facet of the emergency situation.

However, Fire Chief Ray Alfred and Capt. James Jordan Hammond are more concerned about the few percent that strongly disagree with each question on the survey.

“We think we know why that one to 1.7 percent strongly disagree,” said Alfred. “I say to my staff that one to two percent is something to strive for, but let’s figure out why they didn’t approve of our service.”

The most recent survey results also included selected customer comments. According to Alfred, those comments virtually mirror the complaints the department often gets on the scene of an accident or other emergency, both life-threatening and non-life threatening. More often than not, people get upset because rescue personnel determine that their medical condition doesn’t warrant an ambulance ride to a hospital.

“They get upset if we don’t take them or if they don’t like our attitude,” said Alfred, adding that attitude is very much perceived and not a tangible measure of the care given by his department. “As far as transporting victims, we train our employees to do their best. But we don’t always bat a thousand. We take their vitals and determine if they are OK or need a doctor’s care. We also remind them this is an emergency response system.”

Hammond developed the survey several years ago and has been using it as a measuring stick ever since. Once a week Hammond goes into the department’s database which selects random names for the survey. With over 1,500 calls a month, Hammond has plenty of customers to choose from. Typically, the computer selects about 300 names and prints labels. The surveys are accompanied by postage paid and return addressed envelopes. Still, only about 20 percent are returned and, according to Alfred and Hammond, that figure is about average for any customer satisfaction survey, regardless the profession or industry.

“It is kind of frustrating, but we have talked with other fire departments around the state and that percentage is fairly common,” said Hammond. “Even with the postage paid, every customer won’t fill it out.”

Alfred said he and Hammond have brain-stormed about more effective ways to survey customers, but can’t come up with a better —or more sensitive — method.

“We think the database method is best,” said Alfred. “What do you do, put it in their hand in the ambulance? Do you leave it at their house when all they are wondering is if a loved one is going to survive? If you call, will they even talk to you?”

Overall, Alfred is pleased with what he sees each month out of the surveys and understands that a 100 percent approval rating could lead to a complacency that his profession can’t afford.

“If we take the ‘agrees’ and ‘strongly agrees’ and they are over 90 percent, that’s great,” said Alfred. “We don’t expect to be 100 percent.”

The following are the results of the most recent survey, which was sent out Aug.1-Aug. 31.

1. I am satisfied with the courtesy provided by the communications officer that answered my telephone call for assistance.

Strongly agree: 76.3 percent; Agree: 20.3 percent; Neither: 1.7 percent; Strongly disagree: 1.7 percent.

2. I am satisfied with the care provided by the Fire and Rescue personnel that responded to my emergency.

Strongly agree: 83.1 percent; Agree: 13.6 percent; Strongly disagree: 3.4 percent.

3. I am satisfied with the courtesy of the Fire and Rescue personnel that responded to my emergency.

Strongly agree: 81.4 percent; Agree: 13.6 percent; Disagree: 3.4 percent; Strongly disagree: 1.7 percent

4. I am satisfied with the explanation of the services provided to my family members and me by the Fire and Rescue personnel.

Strongly agree: 73 percent; Agree: 18.6 percent; Neither: 1.7 percent; Disagree: 1.7 percent; Strongly disagree: 3.4 percent; N/A: 1.7 percent.

5. Overall, I am satisfied with the services provided by Jacksonville Fire and Rescue personnel.

Strongly agree: 78 percent; Agree: 15.3 percent; Disagree: 1.7 percent; Strongly disagree: 5.1 percent.

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