Under the New York State LOSAP Point System, a volunteer earns 25 points for attending a minimum percentage of the total fire calls for the year. Depending on the services provided by the fire department, it may also be possible for a volunteer to earn another 25 points for attending a minimum percentage of ambulance calls. But this blog post is not about the difference between a fire call and an ambulance call - it is about how to round properly in order to calculate the number of calls required to earn 25 points. Subsequent posts will handle the complexities of the fire vs ambulance breakout and other topics.
I want you as the reader to see exactly the statute is formatted, so I'm including it here as a snapshot (except I added the break-lines to provide some clarity):
For this post we are going to stick with the easiest example, which is a fire company that responds to fewer than 500 calls. In this scenario, the statute stipulates than the minimum number of calls a volunteer must run annually to receive 25 points is 10%. Therefore, if a fire company responds to 350 total calls during the year, a volunteer must respond to 35 of those 350 to earn 25 points. Easy, right?
Based on years of experience, the difficulty comes into play when rounding is applied when the number of calls doesn't divide into a whole number.
If a fire company responds to 358 calls during the year, then the number of calls is 35.8, which rounds up to 36. Most software packages we've reviewed would require 36 calls to earn 25 points.
But what if a fire company responds to 352 calls? Ten percent of 352 calls is 35.2, which rounds down to 35. In the outputs of many software packages we have reviewed, the program requires only 35 calls from the volunteer to earn 25 points. However, is 35 calls an actual 10% response? No, it isn't. It is very close, but not 10%:
35 ÷ 352 = 9.9432%
36 ÷ 352 = 10.2273%
You can see that based on 352 calls, in order to meet the 10% response requirement, a volunteer would have to respond to 36 calls, not 35.
Let's look at a totally absurd example of a fire company that only responded to 4 calls during the year. Ten percent of 4 is 0.4, which would round down to 0. Clearly, the answer cannot be 0 calls to earn 25 points, the answer must be 1. We need to then apply the same logic as the call volume grows.
How to solve the problem? Well, round up, instead of round down. Excel has a ROUNDUP function that handles this problem if you are using your own program developed in Excel. If not the solution is to add 0.49 to your result before rounding. For example:
352 x 10% = 35.2
35.2 + 0.49 = 35.69
35.69 rounds to 36
Check your software to be sure it is calculating the percentage correctly. If it isn't, suggest this change.