Fire Department plans for the future

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Bloomfield Fire Chief Lou Venezia, at right, with Mike Pasterino, who will assist him with a new strategic plan for the department.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield Fire Department is working on a new strategic plan that will be an operational blueprint for the next three to five years.

The department has recently been holding meetings with stakeholders and on Wednesday, Aug. 28, there was one such meeting held in the Mayor’s Conference Room to hear concerns from the public. Although the meeting was not well attended, information was gleaned that may be beneficial.

The purpose of these meetings is twofold. One is to learn from various groups, such as fire personnel, the township council and township employees, how the BFD could better serve the community. The other is to correct misperceptions about the fire department.

“You see everyone’s perspective,” Fire Chief Lou Venezia said. “You may be missing the big picture.”
In addition to Venezia, fire professionals in attendance were Mike Pasterino, a retired Paterson fire chief who will be assisting with the strategic plan, and Irvington Fire Chief Antonio Gary. Bloomfield Councilman Nicholas Joanow also attended.

It was pointed out that since January the BFD has been responding to EMS calls with the firehouse nearest the incident sending an engine accompanied by a fire captain. Venezia said all new firefighters are being given EMT training. The fire department, he said, does not provide transportation to hospitals. That is done by EMS, which the BFD assists.

Pasterino said the strategic plan would provide a future vision; establish the values of the organization; determine the internal and external strengths of the department as perceived by the stakeholders; provide explanations of how fire personnel go about their work; identify potential threats; establish community expectations in the post-9/11 world; identify concerns for the community; and establish realistic goals.

People, he said, have become aware since the Sept. 11 attacks that firefighting is more than putting out fires and he pointed out that EMS services are probably the fastest growing emergency sector in the country. Venezia said it is important that firefighters have EMS training. Even in a supermarket, something can happen such as a person having a heart attack.

“The expectations of the community are that if you’re wearing the uniform, you should be prepared to do what is necessary in a medical situation,” he said.

Venezia also said he may consider a fire blotter for newspaper publication, much like a police blotter. It was suggested that a fire blotter could possibly provide the BFD a higher profile in the community. The Irvington Fire Department once had a fire blotter published in its local paper, but Gary said it no longer does.

In the past, Venezia said the strategic plan was formulated internally without any stakeholder input.
“You have to look at the mission practices being done elsewhere,” he said.
Venezia would like the department to be accredited by the Commission on
Fire Accreditation International and receive a Class I rating.
“The Bloomfield Fire Department was accredited through them from 2009 to 2014,” he said. “We have just started the process and will be working on achieving it again and should be complete within the next 24 months.”

To receive a Class I rating, the BFD would have to be judged as providing excellent fire service based on an evaluation by the Insurance Service Office, an agency which provides these ratings. The BFD has never received a Class I rating. It currently has a Class II rating.
“Being Class I and accredited is a lofty goal, but attainable,” Venezia said.

Meetings to discuss the strategic plan began the first week of July. The plan should be finalized by mid-September, Venezia said. The cost for creating it, he estimated, was $9,000.

“A strategic plan is a requirement of accreditation,” he said. “But besides that, you should have it as a road map for the future.”

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