Calif. FD’s strategic plan focuses on community growth

Prevention, increased demands and community awareness are what the Woodland Fire Department will address over five years


Woodland Fire Department/Facebook

By Gerardo Zavala
The Daily Democrat

WOODLAND, Calif. — The Woodland Fire Department’s five-year strategic plan was presented to the City Council Tuesday evening, highlighting initiatives meant to strengthen public safety and infrastructure.

The city staff report noted that Fire Chief Eric Zane collaborated with Fitch and Associates, a strategic planning consulting firm, in May to orchestrate a series of stakeholder sessions that created three primary strategic objectives.

1. Enhancing prevention efforts before and protection during emergencies.

2. Addressing the escalating service demands in the years ahead.

3. Effectively communicating its services and value to the community.

City Manager Ken Hiatt noted during the meeting that the last time the fire department’s strategic plan was created was nearly two decades ago.

“A lot has changed in our community,” Hiatt emphasized. “We’ve grown, the community demographics and the issues our society faces are a lot different than they were back then.”

Hiatt said he has been “very impressed” with Zane’s leadership and the work the consultants have done to outline a strategic plan that “will help us be much more adaptive to a changing economy and society” while helping “continue to evolve the department and the way we deliver services to the community.”

William Sturgeon, a senior associate with Fitch and Associates and retired fire chief and city manager, attended the meeting to highlight accomplishments, objectives, strengths, weaknesses and challenges the fire department faces.

Some “strategic initiatives” Sturgeon highlighted included emergency vehicle pre-emission; new records management; improved system measurement; utilizing alternative staffing models and reduced responses to low acuity calls in staffed long-term care facilities.

Zane noted that the fire department is looking at staffing a smaller unit that will respond to lower acuity calls.

“By doing so and staffing it during peak hours, we can reduce the need for additional apparatus to be staffed for a period of time,” Zane explained. “This smaller vehicle will be more efficient, can handle some minor calls and assist the engine companies on vehicle accidents or on structure fires and just be an available resource to keep those larger apparatus available for those higher acuity calls.”

Zane said the department was provided some additional funding through the previous budget process to pilot this program. However, the department is still waiting for the vehicle to arrive.

“We also worked out some details... to allow for that to be staffed as soon as we can take delivery to those vehicles,” he added.

Councilman Rich Lansburgh argued that the overarching issues of funding and staffing will continue to be difficult for the fire department and asked if there was any work being done to get federal funding to address increased costs due to climate change and natural disasters.

Sturgeon explained that SAFER grants — Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response — are available. These grants provide funding directly to fire departments to assist them in increasing the number of firefighters to help meet industry minimum standards and attain 24-hour staffing, according to its website.

“I know the U.S. Fire Administration is working diligently to find some funding mechanism to do similar things that address climate change and other environmental issues,” Sturgeon added.

Councilwoman Mayra Vega applauded the inclusion of internal and external stakeholders such as Yolo County Board Supervisor Angel Barajas, two council members and Woodland Memorial Hospital CEO Gena Bravo, among others. According to the plan’s methodology, these stakeholders participated in three days of onsite meetings with the chief and agency support staff to review their perception of the fire department and analyze the agency’s strengths and weaknesses.

However, she expressed concern about the plan’s many goals and encouraged the fire department to prioritize some of the more critical ones.

Councilman Tom Stallard said he’s “always felt we had great people in our fire service” who “operate as teams, are cheerful and do a great job.”

“I think it’s always good to open your consciousness to new ideas and new ways of thinking and I hope that this process did a little of that,” Stallard remarked. “I look forward to see how staff presentations come forward in the months to come.”

The council did not vote on this item as it was only a presentation.

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