“anything that can go wrong will go right 99 percent of the time.”
This leads to what Astronaut Mike Mullane describes as the
normalization of deviance. Reoccurring situations, alleviated with
mediocre practices, may not always lead to unfavorable results.
Our organizations must review SOPs to identify and eliminate
Depending on the department, periodic reviews may be
conducted in various time frames. Departments with a smaller
set of SOPs may review them on a four- or five-year time frame,
keeping pace with the review of the department’s strategic plan.
Larger departments or departments with a larger set of SOPs
may consider going through a certain number of SOPs every two
to three years to ensure that the SOPs are current by the five-year
review of the department’s strategic plan. If the strategic plan,
mission, vision, and values change, the SOPs must also reflect
A team to review SOPs should not be completely comprised of
upper management or senior staff. While senior staff may have the
final say, a review group comprised of various ranks, skills, and levels of seniority will promote organizational buy in. This also allows
for the diverse population of your department to have input.
Allowing the whole organization to be involved may prove to be
burdensome. Instead, consider having a core group to review the
SOPs and create specialized groups or committees to review specific
areas. The special groups may have certain attitudes, skills, and
knowledge. For example, involve those with technical rescue skills
to review SOPs regarding such skills; consider hazardous material
(haz-mat) personnel to assist with haz-mat SOPs and include EMS
personal to define EMS protocols. Gather input from external
stakeholders for SOPs that pertain to external actions, such as policies requiring legal or administrative activities.
Criteria should be established by which to evaluate SOPs during the periodic review process. Consider the following criteria:
• Based on precedents set by current court cases, are the SOPs
• What were the original intentions of the SOP, and what problem was the SOP trying to overcome?
• How are the intentions of the SOP carried out by the
• What internal and external changes occurred once the SOP
–Department behaviors, citizen responses.
• Is the SOP still current, and was the purpose accomplished?
RELEVANCY AND VALIDITY
SOPs must first be reviewed for relevancy and validity. Relevancy
can be ensured by correctly connecting the topic at hand to current
issues. If SOPs describe how a department intends to operate, then
they must be adjusted to keep pace with an ever changing society.
Ensuring SOPs remain current will provide for safe practices in a
society full of new technologies and new obstacles.
SOP relevancy may be threatened by internal and external factors. Internal factors such as a misinterpretation of the intent of
the SOP may lead to undesirable outcomes. External factors, like
newly changed policies from regulations and governing bodies,
will cause an organization to change its practices to stay current.
SOPs must be reviewed to ensure the content is relevant to the
current times and needs of those the department serves.
Review should also take place to ensure the content of the SOP
matches the intent of the SOP. Do the original intentions match
the outcomes created? This type of review should consider the
performance of the SOP or, in better terms, the performance of
those operating under the SOP.
PERFORMANCE, CREATION, AND SPECIAL REVIEWS
The physical outcomes or performance of the SOP and those
carrying out the SOP should be measured to ensure they are in
line with the expectations put forth by the SOP. By evaluating the
actions of the employees, a baseline can be established to ensure
the SOP accomplishes the intended purpose. When consider-
ing the performance, one should ask, “Is the right thing is being
SOPs that are newly created or implemented should be
evaluated within one year. Objectives should be set to serve as
benchmarks to measure the progress of the newly created SOP.
By scheduling an SOP to be reviewed within the first year of
creation, the organization is held accountable to evaluate the
effectiveness of the SOP and improve on it with appropriate
changes. Once again the question
being asked is, “Is the performance
of the employees in line with the
expectations of the SOP?”
Each individual department
Health Administration. firerescue.hotims.com
should also establish special criteria
warranting a review. Special criteria
may include, but are not limited to,
any of the following:
• Changes or revisions in policy to
consensus standards, such as the
Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA), the National
Fire Protection Association, and
the Occupational Safety and