Fire Protection Officer Patrick Deneau checks the water level and pressure in the onboard tank of Engine 1 at Fire Station No. 1 Aug. 31. The task is done at the start of each shift.

Fire Protection Officer Patrick Deneau checks the water level and pressure in the onboard tank of Engine 1 at Fire Station No. 1 Aug. 31. The task is done at the start of each shift.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Community survey results to help guide Novi Fire Department’s strategic plan

Department in application process for accreditation

By: Jonathan Shead | Novi Note | Published September 10, 2021

 Fire Protection Officer Patrick Deneau checks the medical supplies on Engine 1.

Fire Protection Officer Patrick Deneau checks the medical supplies on Engine 1.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


NOVI — Survey data and community commentary gathered from residents and local businesses by the city this past August will be used to help the Novi Fire Department update its strategic plan and progress in its application to become an accredited department.

The Fire Department created a strategic plan in 2011, but Novi Fire Chief Jeff Johnson said the plan hasn’t been updated since.

“We needed to take another look at that and actually formalize it. That’s what we’re doing, is trying to go through the process, and part of the process is to try to reach out to the citizens and the businesses and get some feedback as to how we’re doing,” Johnson said. “How’s our service? Are we doing the right things? Are we meeting your expectations?”

With a variety of services supported and offered by the department across fire and emergency medical services, Johnson said feedback from community stakeholders could be wide-ranging, and he wants to hear all of it.

“All of them have different needs, so we want to hear from them and give them an opportunity to let us know how they feel we’re doing, but also give them the opportunity to maybe make suggestions (about) what they feel is important, and maybe have suggestions of things we can work on,” he said.

While the city’s survey has since closed, Johnson said results from the survey will be used to help guide his department’s planning process as officials planned to sit down for a strategic planning meeting Aug. 31. The meeting was not open to the public, due to COVID-19 safety concerns.

The survey was taken by 185 participants, Director of Public Safety and Police Chief David Molloy said, 94% of whom indicated through their responses that they believed the department was doing an “excellent or good job,” he said.

The goal of the updated plan, Johnson said, will be to establish five themes that the department will look to maintain and improve over the next five years. Johnson hopes to have a draft of the fire department’s new strategic plan for his boss, Molloy, by late September. From there, the plan will be reviewed by city staff and City Council.

While some of the strategic plan themes may not change much from 2011, Molloy said the revised strategic plan is just step one of an overall process toward accreditation.

“We’re always focused on what we can do to enhance the services to our community.”


Five themes for 5 years
The department’s strategic plan will be broken into five key themes — training, response, community risk reduction, employee health and wellness, and infrastructure, Johnson explained.

As something mandated by the state, and as legislation around the topic of fire and EMS training and continued education continues to change, department-wide training — which Johnson said can range from firefighter and EMS services to hazardous waste response and calls for rescue services — will be especially important to investigate.

“We’ll definitely be looking to meet that standard, but also exceed that, because in our department we don’t believe that it should just be that we’re meeting minimums. We’re always trying to excel and go beyond that,” he said.

Looking into and gathering data on the department’s response times will continue to be important and will roll over from the previous strategic plan, Johnson said, with continued investigations into demand for services.

According to the latest United States census data, the city’s population grew from 55,224 residents in 2010 to 66,243 residents in 2020, which leads Johnson to question what demands will look like for a larger community.

“These are going to be important items to also discuss, because we have to know who our customers are and what the demands are going to be,” he said. “I suspect one of the topics we’ll talk about there will be our seniors and the senior housing facilities we have throughout the community, and how (that is) going to impact our services in the next five years.”

Through the strategic plan, Johnson also wants to see continued efforts in the department’s risk reduction services, which include fire inspections, smoke alarm checks and installations, free CPR training, and more.

“We’ve had a number of serious fires and even had some deaths from smoke inhalation because of the smoke alarm,” that wasn’t working properly, Johnson acknowledged. “We want to make sure everyone is aware they need to be testing, monitoring and making sure their alarms are working. If it’s not, we’ll provide one at no cost and install it for them. We also give away free carbon monoxide monitors, as well, if they have a gas appliance. It’s very important for them to have that in their home.”

The two biggest areas of need Johnson sees within his department are themes No. 4 and No. 5: employee health and wellness, because it’s one of the new themes, and the department’s facilities and infrastructure.

The department has been struggling with what to do with Fire Stations No. 1 and No. 3, Johnson said.

“They’re functional right now, and they’re servicing the public well, but there’s been thoughts about whether or not we want to either renovate those buildings or maybe try to relocate them,” he said. “I think that’s the question; what are some opportunities for those two buildings, because they’re at a time right now where we need to take a serious look at those and try to make a decision as to where we’re going to go with those buildings.”


One step closer to accreditation
The department’s work toward updating its strategic plan comes as a precursor needed for the department to reach its ultimate goal: accreditation.

“If things go the way we hope to with all these strategic themes and this plan, the next thing that we’re looking at is to, and part of the reason we’re updating our plan is, is that we want to go for fire accreditation,” Johnson said. “If we were successful, we’d be one of five. There’s only four other (fire) agencies in the state right now that are accredited.”

The accreditation application process usually takes departments about three years to complete, Johnson said, adding that his department has begun going through the application process. The department is seeking accreditation through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International.

“We send our children to accredited schools. We send our young adults to accredited colleges and universities, and we believe it’s important for city services (and) local government to have independent, third-party verification that we’re doing things right,” Molloy said. “We look at this as one of the last steps for our organization to show and demonstrate to not only our residents, but to our business leaders, visitors and people who love to call Novi home, that we have some of the finest public safety services you’re going to find.”

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