Fire Department looking deeply into future needs

By LARRY C. BOWERS Banner Staff Writer
Posted 2/17/17

Cleveland Fire Chief Ron Harrison has some ambitious goals for his department, which he outlined for the City Council at a strategic planning session this week.

Other department heads also …

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Fire Department looking deeply into future needs


Cleveland Fire Chief Ron Harrison has some ambitious goals for his department, which he outlined for the City Council at a strategic planning session this week.

Other department heads also provided reports to the Council, focusing on short- and long-term goals for their respective departments.

Some of the information concerning need was gleaned from community meetings in each of the city’s five districts recently, but some information on needs and deficiencies had already been reviewed.

An accompanying report from the strategic planning session is being published in the Cleveland Daily Banner today, covering Public Works, the Cleveland Urban Area Municipal Planning Organization, and the downtown redevelopment/revitalization plan. (See related story).

Harrison provided the Council with a tentative 15-year plan, saying this forecast is how the fire department should be set up in the future to meet the needs of a growing community.

He said the plan is needed in order to make logical organizational decisions, in the interim, which will lead the city toward realization of its vision.

Harrison organized his plan into short term (one to five years), medium term (six to 10 years), and long term (to be realized in 11 to 15 years).

The fire chief said the purpose of the strategic plan is to deliver highly trained professionals, with proper equipment, to an emergency scene within 5.2 minutes of receiving a call for assistance. To reach this goal, he said, you must have proper equipment, trained professionals, and good response times.

Harrison said the department’s front-line apparatus averaged 13.7 years in 2015. Since that time the city has added one new apparatus, ordered others, and plans to replace an 18-year-old fire engine. “In 2018, the average age of our apparatus will be dropped to 8.1 years,” Harrison said.

He said a short-term goal is to provide highly trained professionals, which will give the department quality, quantity, and adequately staffed facilities.

Harrison said department personnel received 35,000 hours of training in 2016, from experts in nine different disciplines.

Crucial statistics are that the city fire department has increased its call volume by 53 percent since 2008, while staffing has decreased by 6.5 percent.

Despite the limitations which exist from being understaffed, the Cleveland Fire Department maintains a Class 3 ISO rating, placing it among the top 6.6 percent of approximately 49,000 fire departments rated in the nation. This composes a total of just over 2,400 fire stations.

A major, and attainable goal, for Harrison and his department is a Class 2 ISO rating (which would be among the top 1.02 percent, or 750 fire departments).

Fire Departments with a score of 70 to 79.99 are Class 3, 80 to 89.99 are Class 2, and 90 points or more are Class 1. The Cleveland Fire Department was rated with a score of 77.75, only 2.25 points away from a Class 2. Areas in need of improvement, in ISO scoring, include facilities, record-keeping, stations and personnel.

The lower the ISO rating, the better insurance benefits for the community’s residents.

The department’s short-term goals are to meet the industry’s staffing standards, appoint a deputy chief of operations, hire two firefighters to equalize current crews, and upgrade the department’s training facility.

The department’s current training tower failed an inspection by a structural engineer, is unsafe for advanced training, and doesn’t meet ISO/NFPA criteria for a training facility.

Harrison said a new training structure is needed, with a so-called smoke room. He added that the training area needs to be at least two acres in size.

The fire chief said two new fire stations are needed in Cleveland. The short-term goal is a new station on the southwest corner of the city, which will service the new Spring Branch Business Park. The new business development, which should bring hundreds of jobs to the community, is expected to open in March.

A medium-term goal is a seventh fire station in the Northeast section of the city, around the Cleveland YMCA area.

These two stations will be able to serve neighborhoods that are currently out of acceptable response range.

Among the focus points of Harrison’s plan are obtaining the proper equipment, adequate and highly trained personnel, and strategic placement of new fire halls for good response times.

There are more detailed projections in Harrison’s 15-year growth and development plan for the fire department.


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