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Accepted Paper:

Optimization Logic (and lack of optimization logic) in the American Fire Service   
Rachel Warren (University of California Irvine)

Short abstract:

Exploring the surprising benefits of American fire departments no questions- asked approach to service delivery.

Long abstract:

Public agencies, from courts and police departments [1] to tax inspection agencies [2] and city planning agencies [3, 4] are under pressure from national, state, and local leadership to adopt predictive analytics and data-driven decision making. Key motivations for data adoption commonly include cost saving and optimizing service delivery [5]. However, in the United States, fire departments, who are the primary providers of emergency medical services (EMS) to Americans living in urban areas, are an exception. Through over a year of in-person ethnographic observations of the fire service in two major American cities, I have been surprised to see the extent to fire EMS has resisted, not just information technology [6], but logics of prediction and optimization more broadly. Fire fighter paramedics are dispatched to deliver medical care to nearly every one who calls 9-1-1 and asks for help no matter how rich, poor, or genuinely in need of emergency medical services the caller is.

What I hope to discuss in this panel is how this lack of optimization and triage may help the mission of the fire service to protect and serve members of their community. We further hope to engage in some imaginative futures work, considering what it might mean to leverage better record keeping and data practices to improve the work of the fire service without introducing neoliberal logics of efficiency and optimization that might threaten the good parts of this no-questions-asked approach to delivering public services. 

1. Brayne, S., & Christin, A. (2021).

2. Veale, M., Van Kleek, M., & Binns, R. (2018).

3. Mattern, S. (2021).

4.Currie, M. (2020).

5. Eubanks, V. (2018).

6. Kapalo, K. A., Bonnell, J. A., & LaViola, J. J. (2020).

Traditional Open Panel P015
Fostering socially and ecologically sustainable digitalisation of welfare states
  Session 1 Friday 19 July, 2024, -