Citygate Associates Fire Department Audit in Goodyear, AZ by Chiefs Stewart Gary, Bill Sager, and Robert Meyer turns things around.

Goodyear Fire Chief Paul Luizzi, who permanently took the reins of the department on Sept. 23, has initiated profound changes throughout the organization.

Firefighters now measure response times in a cohesive manner, city businesses are listed for the first time in an inspection database and Goodyear’s 93 firefighters must follow the same policies, Luizzi said in a recent interview.

“It is almost like unifying the department,” Luizzi said. “Same message, same page.”

City Manager Brian Dalke offered Luizzi the fire chief job on Sept. 20. Luizzi has served as the interim chief since April, when a critical audit led to the departure of the department’s longtime leader. Luizzi will earn $128,000 annually.

The City Council does not have to approve the appointment.

The audit conducted by Folsom, Calif.-based Citygate Associates LLC, wasn’t all negative. It praised, for example, the department’s emergency medical service, training and emergency management.

The leadership and policy changes are likely the most significant since 1986, when the department morphed from a band of volunteers into an agency under then-Fire Chief Mark Gaillard.

The new policies are in response to the April audit that highlighted major management problems, including understaffing in fire-prevention services, poorly designed response-time measures and three sets of work rules for firefighters.

Morning, evening and overnight shifts had different time-off, promotion, evaluation and discipline policies, the audit said.

Those and other issues led to the departure of Gaillard, who was chief for nearly three decades. He announced plans to step down a day before the audit was released April 16. City officials said he retired, but a voluntary-separation agreement said he agreed to resign effective July 4. He initially stayed on as a consultant, but that role has ended.

Gaillard has since been hired as Flagstaff’s fire chief.

Explosive growth

Goodyear’s population boom, and the department’s rapid growth, contributed to festering problems, officials said.

The city’s population exploded from about 18,000 in 1999 to about 70,000 today, according to officials and the U.S. Census Bureau.

Goodyear was the third fastest-growing community among Arizona’s cities and towns between 1990 and 2000, with an increase of 245 percent, the census said.

At the same time, the Goodyear Fire Department was rapidly expanding. Between 1999 and the economic slowdown of 2008, Goodyear added a new fire station every other year. The city now has six stations about 100 fire employees.

“I would attribute it (management problems) to some fast growth,” said Fire Capt. Stephen Gilman, president of the United Goodyear Firefighters Association.

The audit conducted by Folsom, Calif.-based Citygate Associates LLC, wasn’t all negative. It praised, for example, the department’s emergency medical service, training and emergency management.

“Our firefighters are still saving lives and property,” Luizzi said recently. “We do that very, very well.”

“In customer service, our guys doing the actual work are second to none,” Gilman said.

Jumped on solutions

Tackling the issues cited in the $35,000 study is a high priority, Luizzi says.

“I jumped on this right away and immediately implemented an action plan for addressing the findings,” Luizzi said.

The biggest changes, Luizzi says, have been creating a single set of personnel policies, improving morale, strengthening communications as well as bolstering and streamlining fire prevention and inspections.

Tom Cole, Glendale Fire Department’s deputy chief, was hired until the end of October to increase communications, unify policies and help erase an atmosphere of mistrust that had permeated the department, according to the audit.

“He’s doing a phenomenal job,” said Gilman. “He adds a lot of legitimacy because he has been at a city that has seen and done it.”

Some steps taken, Luizzi says, include these:

Strengthening communications between fire officials and union leaders and giving employee groups a say in standardizing practices.

Using video conference calls, which allow a battalion chief in one location to speak simultaneously with five captains in other locations. Previously, the chief tried to reach out to each captain individually, Luizzi said.

With video conferencing, everyone can communicate quickly and at the same time when an emergency strikes, Luizzi said.

Luizzi reorganized command and put the fire prevention bureau directly under the chief. He also added administrative staff.

The department retained retired Sun City Fire Marshal Steve Morrow, who has decades of fire-prevention experience, Luizzi says. Morrow created a new mission and new internal processes.

The biggest boon, Luizzi says, was to physically confirm the occupancies and addresses of each of about 1,600 businesses in the city and enter them into a database. Previously they had been maintained on an Excel spreadsheet.

Many fire departments in other cities keep such databases, which allow firefighters to schedule and keep track of inspections.

Goodyear is evaluating how long inspections will take and creating inspection schedules. The department is acquiring tablet computers so that field inspectors can enter information directly into them, Luizzi says.

‘Brake to brake’

Another big change, Luizzi said, was instituting a standardized system for measuring response times. He calls the system, “brake to brake.”

Previously, response times weren’t always measured the same way by all firefighters, and some information was inaccurate, Luizzi says.

The department will begin timing itself from the moment the crew releases the brake on the firetruck leaving the station to the time the brake is set at the scene of the call, Luizzi said.

Members of some Goodyear homeowners groups say the changes appear positive.

“I’m encouraged,” said Diane Krone, a board member of the Historic Goodyear Neighborhood Alliance. “I didn’t think they were that far off base to begin with. New blood never hurts.”

The fire union agrees.

“Luizzi has come in with a new perspective,” Gilman said. “Our union is 100 percent behind Chief Luizzi.”

View the source article at here: New chief puts his mark on Goodyear Fire Department


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