Clarification to Fire/Medics Interim Division Chiefs proposal

RE: Editorial “Haste makes Waste”

As one of the Fire/Medics mentioned in the July 16th Editorial, I would like to provide clarification and answers to concerns raised by the Editor. My specific points are related to the Division Chief Proposal that has been presented to the Board of Fire Commissioners during the past few weeks. Before I address my concerns, however, I believe it is beneficial to provide a brief overview for readers not present at the public presentation. This proposal is for defining, delineating, and expanding the administrative role of the current Fire/Medic staff. The timing of this proposal was stimulated by a current vacancy in the Assistant Chief position, which coincided with preparation for our next contract negotiation. To simplify the plan for brevity, we are proposing that we (the Fire/Medics) divide the administrative labor of this position into three main categories while separating duty time from administrative time. The addition of a fourth medic not only facilitates this but also was an eventuality due to the fact that we are working overtime to fill the current schedule. The expanded administrative duties and re-designation of rank would finally fully integrate all components of the Department into a clear “chain of command” and “span of control” (manageable portions of responsibility). There would be no “physical” separation of the Department into different divisions, simply an administrative division of labor into our three major needs: Training, Operations, and Personnel. The three Fire/Medics would continue to provide “Line Duties” as firefighters and paramedics as well as continue to fill the role of Duty Officer. Time spent behind the desk during administrative hours would be used to ensure that the volunteers are trained, the equipment and facilities are staffed, stocked, and operational and that all of our members are kept in good stead. The public would see no reduction in level of service they currently enjoy and could expect that the implementation of that service would be enhanced through the proposed administrative changes. The “chain of command” flows from the District Fire Chief down and his authority would in no way be confused with or supplanted by the Division Chiefs (or whatever title determined to be appropriate). On any given day, the on-shift Duty Officer handles issues unless they need to be addressed by the Chief. The additional Fire Medic would not hold the rank of Division Chief and would function in an administrative support role in addition to their line duties (911 responses). This person would be training in all aspects of the administrative roles and could have the opportunity for future advancement as the need arises. The concept of Division Chiefs is not new or untested, and formalized structure of Fire and EMS Services is not just “big city” but standard throughout the country. At this time, our proposal contains a draft outline of the expanded job description and additional refinement would be completed. If an interim plan commences soon, the biggest change that the volunteers would notice is a clear sign post of which officer to go to for a specific need; that is a good thing. The public is invited to contact any of the Duty Officers if you would like more specific details of clarification of the current proposal on the table.

Lt. Valerie Harris is a Duty Officer, Firefighter and Paramedic with the Orcas Island Fire Department.