Planning Approaches: Operational and Financial Planning

In the first post in this Planning Approaches series, we explained the importance of planning in your fire-EMS agency and talked about the difference between master planning and strategic planning. In our second Planning Approaches article, we looked more closely at standards of cover, cooperative efforts planning and tactical/operational planning. In this final entry, we briefly introduce the concepts of tactical/operational planning and financial planning.

Tactical/Operational Planning

This type of planning is focused primarily on emergency response. The elements of tactical/operational planning typically include:

  • Dispatch protocols
  • Automated run cards
  • Mutual- and automatic-aid plans and agreements
  • Jointly developed on-scene procedures, ICS, SOGs
  • Shared command staff practices

Agencies should be careful not to conduct operational planning solely within its agency, but rather as a cooperative venture between neighboring fire departments. Since you must work with each other on the emergency scene, adequate region-wide operational planning is essential to ensuring firefighter safety.

Financial Planning

All agencies conduct financial planning minimally at the most fundamental level in the form of an annual budget process. But a more comprehensive financial planning strategy also includes:

  • Annual budget process
  • Three- to five-year future budget projections
  • Capital replacement planning
  • Monitoring/projecting revenue sources

Wrapping up

At a minimum, every fire-EMS agency, big or small, needs a strategic plan. A master plan or standards of cover may also be important to you, especially if your community is experiencing growth.


Some of these planning efforts are ones you can accomplish internally; others may benefit from outside assistance, which ESCI can provide. To learn more about the planning assistance provided by the IAFC and ESCI, visit or email us at


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