Posts Tagged Assistant Fire Chief Dave Schmidt

Elgin Fire Department news

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Elgin City Manager Rick Kozal promoted Assistant Fire Chief Dave Schmidt to fire chief.  Schmidt steps into a post that was held by John Fahy, who retired this summer after more 30 years as a firefighter. Fahy now works for Elgin Community College as Senior Director of Academic Programming and Public Safety at the new ECC Center for Emergency Services in Burlington.

Schmidt. a 27-year veteran was hired on at just 22 years of age. When he began working in the Elgin Fire Department, the city had just four fire stations — it now has seven. They had just started to do hazardous material rescues, and the focus was still largely on fires.

Now, about 80 percent of their calls are for emergency medical services. While they still fight fires, how firefighters approach those fires is very different from back then. Instead of running into a home to fight the blaze from inside, they are often staying outside long enough to knock down the fire before determining if it is safe inside. Some of the new construction materials don’t hold up to fire like old, structural wood did.

While not running into a burning building is anathema for many firefighters, it is the safest thing for them, Schmidt said.

Schmidt also remembers when for Elgin’s largest buildings, they had a three-ring binder with plans and layouts for the building. Now, those plans are on tablets in the fire command vehicle. Those same tablets allow firefighters to track medical records for patients they’ve worked with before, track their EKGs, and provide information gathered in the field to the hospital.

Schmidt said he’s been heavily involved in making sure Elgin firefighters don’t just have access to the technology, but are trained in that tech as well.

On Tuesday, he was part of a mandatory CPR training class. While there is so much technology available to firefighters, CPR is still the basic response for many emergencies, he said.

The city will be using its own human resources department to conduct a broad, national search to find Schmidt’s replacement. Elgin’s fire department has two assistant chief spots, with the other currently held by Bryan McMahan. As many new firefighters were added between 1989-91 when new fire stations were built, those firefighters are getting close to having 25-30 years on the department — retirement age for them, Schmidt said.

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Elgin Fire Department news

Excerpts from the

Elgin firefighters retired the colors at Station One along Summit Street on Thursday afternoon, marking the retirement of Chief John Fahy.

After being presented the folded flag, Fahy said he was grateful and thanked his family, colleagues and the city for the opportunities that came from being a firefighter.

Fahy worked as a firefighter in Aurora for six months before coming to the Elgin department in February 1987. He was named chief by outgoing former City Manager Sean Stegall and took the post in January 2011.

Prior to that, Fahy led the fire union for six years. He also served on the Kane County Board from 2006 to 2010 as a Republican representing District 21, which covers West Dundee, where he and his family live.

Fahy noted that during his tenure, the department upgraded technology; doubled available paramedic service to the community; started a community outreach program with each station adopting a social service agency to support; upgraded its fleet with the purchase of several ambulances, ladder trucks and fire engines; remodeled stations; and began an Explorer program for youths.

Fahy retires from a job that paid him about $168,000 a year, and he now heads to Elgin Community College to become senior director of academic programming and public safety at the new ECC Center for Emergency Services in Burlington, a post that pays $85,000 annually.

Assistant Chief Dave Schmidt will be acting chief through early October, during what’s left of Fahy’s vacation time with the city. After that, Kozal will name Fahy’s replacement.

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Elgin FD invests in strategic planning

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Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy is a fan of the classic Yogi Berra quote “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” That philosophy, of having a roadmap into the future, is one of the reasons the Elgin Fire Department recently completed its first, 2015-2020 strategic plan, Fahy said.

Developed this spring with the help of The Center for Public Safety Excellence working as consultants for about $15,000, the final plan was released last week. Elgin joins just 10 percent of fire departments nationwide that have developed formal strategic plans, Fahy said.

Assistant Fire Chief Dave Schmidt was one of 32 internal stakeholders — fire department staff — that helped refine and define the information they received from external stakeholders who attended focus groups.

Previous plans were not formalized and often left the rank-and-file firefighters out of the process, Fahy said. Neither did they bring in the public to get an outside look at the department. Also, with many of the department’s top leadership getting close to retirement age — including Fahy, assistant chiefs and battalion chiefs — the plan also helps to formalize succession plans in the department.

“By 2020, the majority of the staff will probably be retired,” with 30 years on the job, Schmidt noted.

At the end of the process, the strategic plan looked at seven main areas and created goals for each. Those areas are internal communications, external communications and community outreach, disaster preparedness, fire prevention, workforce planning and development, health and wellness, and public education.

In the past, Fahy said, it was easier for a fire chief to go before city councils and ask for needed equipment. But in a new data-driven age, fire departments need to not just justify their needs, but show data on why it is needed and what the benefit would be not just to the department, but the community. The department and its consultants invited 130 community stakeholders to the focus groups. Of that, 90 showed up, Fahy said.

The consultants were amazed, he said, because it shows a high degree of public buy-in to the department and city operations. Once the focus groups where over, the internal stakeholders took over and refined the ideas brought up during the public input sessions.

Fahy said he also stayed out of the process to a large degree, knowing firefighters may be more willing to speak their minds when the boss wasn’t in the room.

Often, boards can create strategic plans then watch those plans gather dust on the shelf, Fahy and Schmidt agreed. Each of the seven goals have objectives with timeframes, tasks and estimates for funding. Each objective will be assigned to personnel responsible for completing it. Many of the objectives build upon the one before it being completed.

The workforce planning and development goal looks at current staffing levels and how they relate to service demands, then further identifies staffing needs based on demand for service.

Further down the line, those service and staffing objectives include evaluating personnel management and organizational development programs — preparing current firefighters for future leadership positions.

Elgin firefighters, as well as other departments nationwide, have reported fighting fewer fires as homes are built better. Here, about 75 percent of total calls for service are for medical calls, and 25 percent for fires, crashes, hazardous materials and other reasons, Schmidt said. The strategic plan will help determine the best way to deploy existing personnel and equipment to serve that need, Fahy said.

“At the end … we will be a more-efficient, more-trained and a more communicative department,” Fahy said.

thanks Dan

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