I was given the privilege to lead the Fort Dodge Fire Department in August 2010. My lifelong experience in the fire service has given me the background to feel confident about assuming responsibility and a leadership role in the Fort Dodge community.
Thirty-three years of my career was with the Burlington Fire Department. As second in command, many of my responsibilities included the daily operation of a 49-member Fire Department serving a community of 29,000 residents. In addition to fire suppression, the department provided Emergency Medical and Ambulance service and Hazardous Materials service to the residents within Des Moines County. Additional areas of responsibility include airport rescue, firefighting operations, fleet management and building maintenance for two fire stations, all within a budget of $4 million.
There are similarities between the Fort Dodge and Burlington fire departments. The Fort Dodge Fire Department has 31 members serving a community of 26,000 residents with fire suppression and emergency medical service as first responders. Your firefighters respond to nine counties as part of the regional Hazardous Materials team. We provide Confined Space Rescue on a contractual basis. Firefighters provide the Fort Dodge Regional Airport with Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting coverage on weekends and holidays at an extensive savings to the Fort Dodge Regional Airport.
Where Fort Dodge Fire Department excels is in partnerships and cost savings. These partnership examples fit my core belief to be of value to the organization and also fall directly in line with our City Council goals of Lean Government.
Examples of future partnerships may include Iowa Central Community College and its Fire Training program, Trinity Medical Center to maintain emergency medical services, Fort Dodge Regional Airport to lower training costs, working directly with Planning and Inspections Departments, and training with the Fort Dodge Police Department to provide medics during high risk operations.
It is my belief anyone who works for a living has a responsibility to be of value to their employer. In the private sector if you do not strive every day to help your employer succeed, you and the business will not survive. Each public employee has the responsibility to assist in ways to keep costs down. The firefighters have embraced this responsibility and are working within the Lean Government initiative directed by the City Council. At $86.54 per person, per year, the cost for professional fire protection in Fort Dodge is lower than any other city in the state.
Everyone is aware that tax revenues are shrinking and operating costs continue to soar. From fuel costs to paper towels - everything seems to cost more. Our budget is set by the City Council and funding comes from local tax dollars. So fire service, along with the rest of the country, is trying to figure out how to do more with less. Your firefighters have excelled in this area, cutting operating costs to the bare bones. The drawback to this belt tightening is the aging equipment and fire station. When you walk into the fire station it is like walking back in time to the 1980s. Like other aging city property, we need to invest in our infrastructure in order to keep moving forward.
The citizens of Fort Dodge are fortunate to have a seasoned staff of firefighters at their service. But with this longevity comes the possibility of losing the knowledge and experience as firefighters begin to reach retirement age. The department has stepped up its efforts to develop the next generation of leaders. This doesn't need to cost a lot of money, but it does require the seasoned staff to step forward and assist in the training process and lend their knowledge and expertise to the process. Iowa Central Community College, Iowa State Fire Service Training Bureau and our own Kelly Hindman have offered leadership classes to bring our future leaders up to speed.
The Fire Department's authority comes from the City Council. The City Council exists to provide the citizens of Fort Dodge a great place to live as outlined in the city's vision statement: "We will become the top-ranked municipal government in the state of Iowa by consistently delivering high quality, user-friendly services within budget constraints, to pleasantly surprise citizens by our team of proud employees working in a great environment." The Fire Department's goals must support the goals of the City Council or the Fire Department as an organization will fail.
The Fire Department supports the Fort Dodge City Council's vision. In addition, the council has stated it supports the staffing of the Fire Department. This mutual respect for each other is the foundation that is necessary to build a strong working relationship as we move forward.
I was pleased to hear one of my officers state; "Mission. Corps. Self," when discussing the direction the Fire Department was headed. It is this type of attitude that makes me proud to lead these men. Putting personal needs behind the needs of the department and citizens is truly what it means to be a public servant.
If you want to contact me I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 576-1031.
David Luers is the chief of the Fort Dodge Fire Department,