Draft report: SFD needs to better utilize its volunteers

By Ed Harris

A draft report of a review of the town’s fire services found the Southington Fire Department capable, but identified a need for the better use of volunteers in various administrative and operational components and as a way to minimize overtime.
The report, undertaken by the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), was commissioned late last year. The 109 page report, obtained by The Observer, includes 30 recommendations highlighting the areas that need improvement.
Southington Fire Chief Harold Clark declined to speak about the report, stating that it was not final and contained inconsistencies.
“I am not going to comment on any recommendations until it’s a final draft,” Clark said.
Of the 30 recommendations included in the report, 13 are what ICMA considers as a priority.
These priority recommendations include integrating volunteer officers into the incident command system, the development and implementation of a communications model that establishes and ensures an effective conduit of communication through the department, undertaking a community risk and vulnerability assessment and the development of a multi-company practical training regimen. Other priority recommendations include a volunteer officer candidate professional development program, establishing standby duty crews for the evening hours consisting of volunteer staff, using trained volunteers to cover for overtime costs and discontinuing the practice of allowing career staff to return to state 1 for standby by when the on-duty career staff is deployed on a call.
Mary Baker, chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, said that she felt the release of the report was premature, but said the board would embrace the recommendations in the final report, which she noted would likely be out in a few weeks.
“Since I’ve been on the board, the administration has made great progress in promoting its recruitment process,” Baker said. She also added that the department has been proactive with communication.
Town Manager Garry Brumback said he was still evaluating the report, but noted that he was pleased that it showcased ways to improve the fire department.
“It did what I hoped it would do,” Brumback said. “From first blush, it’s a good, quality report.”

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