Emergency measures: Vic audit questions use of rapid response targets

Politicians love to announce that their state’s fire brigade or ambulance response times have improved, or are the best in the nation. A Victorian audit has questioned whether those targets actually tell anything meaningful about performance.

Victorian auditor-general John Doyle has criticised the approaches to measuring, monitoring and reporting response times used by the state’s emergency services in an investigation likely to apply other jurisdictions.

In an audit report tabled last week, Doyle wrote:

“I found that emergency response time measures reported in State Budget Papers and agency annual reports do not provide useful performance information. Targets for the number of minutes to arrive are outdated or not based on evidence. Measures are often narrowly defined and exclude significant proportions of emergency response activity. Data quality is not assured in a number of instances, and Victoria Police does not measure its response times at all.”

The auditor-general adds that public reporting of performance is “limited” with only the firefighters telling Victorians the “actual number of minutes it takes to respond to urgent calls”, and says a focus on providing data for the entire state obscures the variance across its many diverse regions. He goes on to explain that:

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