Kayla Blount and about 60 other locals participated in step one of the Edmond Fire Department’s strategic planning process — obtaining input from community stakeholders.
Blount, a Liberty Mutual sales representative who offices in Edmond, said she already knew a lot about the Fire Department, but it was still educational and good to know the agency was open to new ways to serve the public.
“It felt good to be involved because being a citizen and paying taxes you want to feel like you’re involved with anything that has to do with keeping the community safe,” she said.
Blount said she thinks Edmond already has one of the best fire departments around. The fact that the event had about the highest turnout for a city of its size illustrates how citizens feel about the agency, she said.
The Edmond Fire Department is developing a five-year strategic plan, a process that will drive the fire service operations and establish a future course of action, said Fire Chief Jake Rhoades, who has been on the job nearly three months now.
“This for the Edmond Fire Department, for the City of Edmond, this is a big step for us,” Rhoades said. “For us, it was very important that we start it here, with the community and the stakeholders and the voices that are out there to make sure that we meet your needs.”
For the next three days, Fire Department administrators will be evaluating the information from the luncheon event and developing the plan, Rhoades said. The information from the citizens will be a central part of the process, he said. It will include a review of the current mission and the development of vision and value statements.
Brian Dean, a technical advisor from the nonprofit Center for Public Safety Excellence, facilitated the fact-finding event. Rhoades said the organization goes to fire departments across the country and handles the process. The center was selected because of their focus on community-driven strategic planning.
Dean, who retired after a nearly 30-year career with the fire service in Florida, gave the citizens a brief overview of strategic planning. Dean said there are about 30,000 fire departments of all sizes across the U.S. Less than 10 percent of them have strategic plans, he said. Even fewer actually work their plans.
Many plans are written by the fire chief and given to the rank and file, Dean said. In a lot of cases, a community is told what a fire department does, but its input is not sought, Dean said.
“In the big scheme of things, the community being the customer, it’s very important that you give your feedback,” he said.
Participants evaluated Edmond Fire Department services related to fire suppression, fire prevention, public education, fire investigation, basic rescue and technical (vehicle extrication; radio tower rescue; construction trench collapse), hazardous materials mitigation, emergency medical services (initial advanced life support) and response to any type of natural or man-made disasters that may occur in the community (tornadic activity etc.).
They also provided information about prioritization of services and were given an opportunity to list the expectations they have for the Fire Department, concerns, positive feedback and general remarks.
Rhoades encouraged the members of the public to feel free to speak to him or the Fire Department staff about any issue. The fire chief also thanked the citizens for allotting some of their time for the agency.
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