Dover Fire Department’s efficiency noted in comprehensive review

 

DOVER — Dover Fire Department wasn’t afraid when the Center for Public Safety Management LLC conducted a comprehensive analysis of its operations, including the department’s deployment practices.

Rather, the roughly 80 members of the mostly volunteer department feel as if they have been giving the Dover community and surrounding areas the best services they can provide.

Dover’s firefighters were confident they would receive a strong report card in front of a Special Council Committee of the Whole/Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee meeting at City Hall on Wednesday night. It turns out they were right.

For the most part, the fire department received outstanding grades by the Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM), which conducted studies involving such factors as workload, organization structure, training, performance measures, prevention activities and interactions with mutual aid partners.

Paul Eichler, who has been a Dover fireman for the past 20 years, took the review as a challenge to better the department’s practices.

“On behalf of myself and my colleagues who are here I’d like to thank the city for the opportunity to take a review of our operations and our practices,” he said. “I think it has benefitted us immensely to be able to tell what we are doing well and where we need to do a bit more homework.

“It means a lot to us and we strive to be a professional organization regardless of how we’re staffed in volunteer [firemen] versus career conversation.”

The CPSM report titled “Operational and Administrative Analysis of the Dover Fire Department,” which was 110-pages long, made 49 recommendations – many of which appeared to be minor issues – to improve functions within the fire department.

It put them into three groupings for the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee: Initial Phase Implementation, Second Phase Implementation and Third Phase Implementation, depending on if city council eventually acts on the report.

Among the first five recommendations of the First Phase were:

• The city should create a full-time position of Emergency Services Manager and transfer the day-to-day oversight of the fire department and the other closely related emergency services and support functions under this position. We recommend that this new position be a direct report to the city manager.

• The city and the Volunteer Association should enter into a contractual agreement that specifies the terms and conditions involved in the delivery of fire services.

• The Emergency Services Manager should be assigned the administration of the contract with PrimeCare (EMT and ambulance services) and should coordinate the emergency management activities for the city.

• The city and the Volunteer Association should specify those city personnel policies that apply to members of the Volunteer Association and place these provisions in the service agreement.

• The city should facilitate the development of a strategic plan for the Dover Fire Department which focuses on the department’s long‐term needs and anticipated service demands.

The list then stretched 44 more items long.

“These are just recommendations, they aren’t mandates,” said Michael Iacona, Senior Manager for Fire and EMS for CPSM. “We’re not coming in here and saying ‘Do all of this.’ Some may be very easy to do, some may be very difficult to do and some may even turn out that they can’t be done.”

Mr. Iacona also said, “You’ve got a formula here in Dover that’s working, and working well. I was very impressed.”

Dover City Council President Timothy Slavin noted that none of the recommendations have been accepted by council and that the purpose of the review was just to start a dialogue between the city and fire department.

The Dover Fire Department, which was represented by a couple of dozen members at Wednesday’s meeting, will get its chance to make its own presentation before the committee on Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.

City Manager Scott Koenig said the fire department wasn’t being picked on solely by the city of Dover.

“As we were developing the FY ’16 budget requests, council considered a request to study the umbrella of public safety services for the city of Dover, including police, fire, fire support, as well as Emergency Medical Services,” Mr. Koenig said.

“The reason that we requested this study to go forward was to give us a perspective from subject-matter experts that have experienced working with fire, emergency management, Emergency Medical Services, in various parts of the country under various circumstances.”

The firemen received a lot of support from members of the committee for their past performance.

“There may be some internal things they need to correct, but when the rubber meets the road, they’re there,” Councilman William Hare said of the fire department.

Mr. Eichler said the study has actually already helped the fire department in moving forward.

“I think we have done a lot of due diligence already in regards to the information that’s been presented,” he said. “I’d just like to have it noted that since we’ve had the opportunity to take a look at the study that the department has had a committee together that has met several times and we’ve put a lot of work into reviewing [some procedures].”

The firefighters said they relish the opportunity to provide their own report next month.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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