The Lee’s Summit Fire Department began April 16 an accreditation process that after it’s complete will give the department a better idea of its strengths and areas it can improve on.
The 16- to 18-month process will also help determine, among other items, the future of the much discussed Fire Station No. 3 at Third Street and Pryor Road.
“The process itself, it isn’t one of those things where you fill out (forms) and submit it and they come and look at your paperwork. It is a process,” said Jim Eden, assistant fire chief with the Lee’s Summit Fire Department. “It is a long process of critical assessment and a lot of that is establishing things to give us a guide of where we want the department to go and setting the process of getting there.”
As part of the self-assessment, the department will develop a set of core values and standards that are established by the Center for Public Safety Excellence, Eden said.
“We have a company that is acting as a facilitator to help us do that,” he said. “They’re providing training on not only how to evaluate ourselves but also to write how we are doing things so that we can use that information as a guide. Part of that process also includes strategic planning. We know how we function as a department. We want to get a picture of how our citizens and our stakeholders feel about how we are doing and what they expect from us. That will be a part of the process as well.”
Also a part of the accreditation process is risk assessment and standards of cover.
“What that means is how do we provide resources to the city to take care of events that could occur in our city?” Eden said. “That involves everything from looking at the hazards we have in our community – it’s a total risk assessment of our city. We then apply the resources that we have to that, and that’s where we come up with our standard of cover. Once we go through that process and if we identify areas that we need to work on – which is our goal; this is a learning process, a self-improvement. We’re evaluating what we do now, but we are trying to make ourselves better. It’s a process of improvement.”
One thing that will surface from the assessment is what to do about Fire Station No. 3, which was built more than 40 years ago. The aging building is still a functioning station, but an upgrade or a replacement is needed.
“The fire station was built back in 1970,” said Dan Manley, president of the Lee’s Summit Fire Fighters Association, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2195. “It was designed for a different period of time. With the changes with the fire services in our community, the fire station needs to be upgraded or enhanced to be able to meet today’s needs of fire service. That being said, I think there needs to be a cost-analysis to determine whether or not the facility itself can be improved to meet the standards needed to operate the fire station or whether or not it’s more cost effective to be replaced.”
Manley said morale is on the up tick for the three-man per shift crew that calls Fire Station No. 3 their base.
“The guys that work out of the station their morale is fine,” Manley said. “They are here, just like all fire fighters are, to perform a service for our community and they show up every day to deliver that service. I don’t think that the station condition itself impacts the morale.”
Keith Martin, the department’s chief, said despite a presentation he made Nov. 26 to the Lee’s Summit City Council’s capital improvement committee about the need to upgrade or replace the station, he is convinced city officials will address the issue in the near future.
The presentation failed to get the issue before voters on the recent municipal ballot April 2.
“This is just our smallest station that sometime in the future we want to replace” Martin said April 15 during a brief tour of the facility. “We’ve kind of outgrown it. It’ still a very functional building, we’re just ready to replace it and expand out a little bit. We want to make it a bigger facility so that we can grow into it. For the age of the building it’s good. I mean, there are (structural) issues, but we jump on it and fix it and that’s about it. It’s a functional station, it’s just not as big and it’s not as nice as some of our other ones.”
“We support the items that Chief Martin presented to the Capital Improvement Committee on the 26th of November,” Manley said. “It definitely shows the need to be able to upgrade the facility or replace the facility and we are supportive of that. Looking at the fire station during that presentation it shows the size of the facility and the unintended uses of the facility that have been added just to be able to accommodate the personnel. I think there is a need to be able to address that as we move forward.
“Part of that process is conducting an accreditation of our fire department to determine what the service needs are and looking at a strategic plan for the future of our community.”