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None of these interests seem to match or support one another. In the end, the fire chief must do what is in the best interest to the community and financially sustainable. This may mean not giving the community exactly what they want, but making the best operational decision to support the performance goals and protect firefighter safety. After many community meetings, long talks with the labor union, evaluations from our fire suppression and EMS battalion chiefs, costing plan discussions with city leadership, we settled on a staffing plan that involved moving apparatus around to maximize their potential and start a new recruit class to help staff a new fire station with a rescue unit. We also had to change out two five-person tiller trucks with two four-person platforms to free up two additional personnel each day. This allowed us to staff another rescue for a future fire station.
Firehouse: What does adding solar panels to the fire stations do for your operation?
Myers: It is everyone’s responsibility to reduce the carbon footprint we make on our environment. The fire service is not exempt from this. Along with many other shifts in business and facility changes, the city greatly assisted us in constructing parking shade structures at each of the firehouses roofed with solar panels to collect and convert energy that we use to offset the cost of our facilities. Solar energy, along with green building construction habits, central HVAC control, water usage monitors and recycling programs, help us to do our part in helping secure a sustainable environment.
Firehouse: Have you streamlined the inspection process?
Myers: We have. This has been a very arduous process. Working with our city partners, we began by centralizing all the building and safety functions into a single building. This allows a contractor or developer to make only one stop to get all the permitting and regulation work done. We also instituted an express service for plan review. Currently, 38% of plans submitted are worked through the express service for which we charge a higher premium. We also have some of our inspectors working out of fire stations in their inspection districts. Instead of driving to headquarters each work day as in the past, they report to a fire station. This has reduced drive time expenses and allows the inspector to be in the field conducting inspections. Fire inspectors are issued computer tablets in which they receive their assignments, collect data during inspections and can upload their data real-time to the city’s computer network. That information is shared with several other city departments including Building & Safety, Business Licensing and Zoning to ensure that all properties are up to code.
Firehouse: Can you explain the advantage of the mobile shop?
Myers: The mobile shop (mechanic) has created a great deal of versatility for our apparatus maintenance program. The large majority of issues that arise with our fleet are minor in nature, but need attention. For these minor fixes we use a mobile shop housed inside a large walk-in two-ton truck. The truck looks like the support mechanic trucks used for high-end auto racing crews and is perfect for handling daily repairs. Having the mobile truck operating all day allows our crews to stay in service in their area rather than having to go out of service and travel across town to the fixed main shop site.
Firehouse: You meet every morning with your top staff. What do you cover?
Myers: We meet every morning about an hour into our day. The meeting includes our four deputies (operations, support, prevention/administration and medical services), our business analyst, the CFO, the PIO (public information officer) and our executive assistant. We go over the calendar for the week and make sure all of our schedules align and all the events are covered. We will discuss current pressing issues, make sure any approvals that need to made that day are discussed and we close out with each person covering any special circumstances they need the groups help on. This is the opportunity for the whole team to help any division leader with an issue they may be handling. Oftentimes, we come out of the meeting with small working groups having been assigned to meet that day to help brainstorm solutions to a problem we are dealing with. These daily meetings are my opportunity to keep momentum high, infuse the appropriate level of energy and set the tone of creativity and innovation that is so important for our success.
Firehouse: What does the installation of computer terminals in fire stations and the issuance of iPads do for the department?
Myers: We have had desktop computers in our fire stations for many years. We also have two Toughbook tablets on each unit, one used as the MDT (mobile data terminal) and one used for patient-care reporting. The future, however, is changing and today’s firefighter is very savvy with communications devices and can multi-task much faster than past generations. We are trying to embrace this trend.