Over the past 136+ years, Portland Fire & Rescue’s primary mission has shifted from fighting fires to responding to public health and safety emergencies. This lower demand for fire response is due to advances in fire-resistant building materials, and an increased need for emergency responders. With their stations distributed evenly across the city, firefighters are well-positioned to rapidly respond to emergency calls, which are mainly comprised of medical emergencies.
In 2019 they partnered with The Social Impact Lab, which runs workshops with community members and organizations to solve problems using design thinking methods. I’m a volunteer facilitator for the Social Impact Lab, but this season I decided to participate in the workshop to help with the project and get a better sense of the participant experience.
In this article, I’ll talk about how we used an approach based on design thinking methods to help Portland Fire & Rescue explore ways they might respond to their changing mission.