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Report Recommends Leaving Firehouses Unmanned at Night

Analysis suggests eliminating staff at two stations.

An analysis of the Garden City Fire Department's overall performance, as requested by the village board of trustees in late 2011, is now complete.

The last time the village commissioned such a report was back in the 1960s.

The 85-page analysis, provided by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) at a cost of $36,000, provides a "baseline of the performance for Garden City in its delivery of fire services as well as recommendations for continued improvement towards national benchmark performance measures."

The Garden City Fire Department is one of only two “combination” departments comprised of both career and volunteer firefighters on Long Island; the other is Long Beach. The volunteer force has a membership of approximately 100 firefighters, 45 of which are certified as “structural-interior firefighters," according to the report.

In part, the ICMA states that the department often operates more like "two separate departments rather than one for purposes of achieving its mission of serving the citizens of the community." ____________________________________________________________________
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The report offers 14 recommendations in total, including #6, eliminating staffing at satellite stations located on Edgemere Road and Clinton Road during evening hours; #1, appointing a command captain; and #8, changing dispatch to Firecom.

The rationale for recommendation #6, according to the ICMA report, is based on the "very low nighttime call volume and the ability to transverse the village quicker at night."

The board of trustees has the power to implement all, some or none of the recommendations, according to village administrator Robert Schoelle.

When asked if any of the recommendations were implemented immediately, Schoelle responded "no" and did not offer any further explanation.

Patch, however, has obtained information that confirms trustees directed village staff to have recommendations #6 and #8 implemented immediately.

The board's response, issued on behalf of the Communications Committee of the board of directors, states: "The Board of Directors was provided with the ICMA report on July 26. We are studying it as a group and will be making decisions regarding the report recommendations over time."

Chief Charles Cavarra, who is in Colorado at a chief's convention, did not provide comment at the time of this posting.

The Recommendations
The 14 recommendations are as follows:

1. Appoint a command captain position to assist the volunteer chief and department officers in meeting the administrative requirements of the department.

2. Develop a department strategic plan and have it approved by village administration and elected officials.

3. Conduct a community risk analysis as part of a comprehensive needs assessment.

4. Develop a plan to conduct a self-assessment and become a registered agency in the accreditation process through the Center of Public Safety Excellence, Inc.’s Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

5. Develop written policies and procedures for volunteers responding to incident scenes, with appropriate records for accountability.

6. Eliminate staffing at satellite stations during night hours. Review the necessity for daytime staffing at the satellite stations following the recommended change in dispatching.

7. Increase the number of structural/interior certified volunteer firefighters.

8. Change dispatch to Firecom to improve dispatch/turnout time and allow continued achievement of response time performance.

9. Consider acquisition of CAFS for use on all fire suppression apparatus as part of a vehicle replacement program.

10. Consider implementing low-hazard occupancy fire prevention self-inspection program and voluntary residential safety visits.

11. Consider purchase of NFPA’s Risk Watch® Program for comprehensive life safety awareness.

12. Enforce false alarm ordinance to reduce unnecessary calls for service.

13. Develop public education programs using department data that has been analyzed to identify specific target groups and fire safety problems.

14. Improve communication through the move to Firecom and purchase of portable radios for all personnel.

Do you agree/disagree with any of the recommendations? Let us know in the comments.
Cargo Pants August 10, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Just curious why the first 5 recommendations were skipped?? Shouldn't replacing the Captain be a priority?
Concerned August 17, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Better too many than not enough
Concerned August 17, 2012 at 04:33 PM
There is over 300 communities on Long Island, they cannot all be wrong...
gcgcgc August 17, 2012 at 04:52 PM
JTZ, yes, replacing captain first, with the risk assessment and development of strategic plan next. Skipping to 6 and 8 seems like hidden agenda is on cost over public safety. You have to ask why skipping 1 to 5 to 6 & 8? Who benefit? What are the motivations of the decision makers?
thomas stoerger December 19, 2012 at 03:01 PM
While I will admit it is easier to "traverse" the village during the evening hours. Volunteer Firefighters still have to get to there vehicles and respond to the scene. They have no authority under NYS VTL to violate any Motor vehicle laws to do so(Blue Light Law). Also last time I looked most families are home during the evening hours and I'm sure most fires that occur in the private homes are likely during these same hours. I am not complaining about the volunteer fire service but merely stating that with a manned firehouse the first engine can in MOST cases arrive at the scene in the time it takes a VFF to arrive in his car(without the equipment needed to extinguish or possibly rescue a trapped person.

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