Strategic plan to help guide Rochester Hills Fire Department through 2029

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published June 5, 2019

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ROCHESTER HILLS — The population in Rochester Hills is expected to grow over the next 10 years, which officials say will only increase the city’s emergency call volume.

Rochester Hills Fire Chief Sean Canto said one of the priorities of the Fire Department is maintaining its current level of service  — which includes a six-minute response time — with an increasing and continually aging population.

According to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, the city saw its population increase by about 5% from 2010 to 2018 — from nearly 71,000 people in 2010 to 75,000 in 2018 — and by 2045, the group estimates the figure to reach nearly 80,000.

As the overall population rises, SEMCOG also reports that the number of Rochester Hills residents who are 65 and older will also increase — from 8,083 in 2015 to almost 14,000 in 2040.

In 2017, Canto said, Fire Department personnel responded to 7,100 incidents, approximately 5,554 of which were medical runs. Of those medical runs, Canto said, 3,578 were calls from people 65 and older.

“That means 64% of our incidents were on people 65 and older,” Canto noted. “And SEMCOG is estimating that the age 65 and older (group) is just going to continue to grow, which means that we’ll have more incidents based on age.”

New residential developments, along with a rise in commercial and industrial businesses, will also overload medical and fire services, according to Canto.

According to the city’s master plan, an estimated 300-500 additional housing units will be added to the city’s current 29,000 housing units between 2018 and 2020, and 1,200-1,500 more are anticipated between 2021 and 2030.

“Last year, it was about 2,900 runs for incidents at housing units, so ... for every 10 housing units, we get one incident,” he said. “They’re saying by 2030 we can end up with anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 additional housing units in the city. That means we’ll make anywhere from 150 to 200 additional runs based on those housing units.”

And by 2030, an additional 500,000 square feet of retail commercial space and between 187,000 and 234,000 square feet of office space will be added to the city.

Canto said the population increase will only increase the demand for advanced life support services from firefighter/paramedics — a threat the department has addressed in its new 2019-2029 strategic plan, which was unanimously approved by the Rochester Hills City Council earlier this year.

“Just like any business, we needed to have something that guided us over the next 10 years,” Canto explained. “It was basically two years’ worth of work, gathering data, looking at where the department was going to be in the next 10 years and what our staffing requirements were going to be.”

Canto and his team are currently working on developing a staffing analysis and needs plan to determine the current and anticipated operational workload of the department over the next 10 years — which is one of the strategic plan’s 14 main goals.

“If our run volume increases, how do we assure we’re able to respond?” he said.

Another goal is to develop a plan to share resources under a regional fire service organization.

“What we’re looking at here is just to have the discussion to have a collaborative fire service. There are a lot of fire departments throughout the country that consolidated services and became a larger, regional fire department,” said Canto. “There are some cost savings that can go along with that process. Operationally, it can be a better service … so I think those discussions have to be had and see if communities want to have the discussion of a regionalized fire service.”

Additional goals identified in the plan include creating maintenance plans for Fire Department facilities and emergency vehicles; providing a community risk reduction division to decrease the severity of fire and life safety events; expanding and diversifying the pool of potential firefighter and paramedic candidates; creating a culture of health and wellness within the department; maximizing the use of innovative technologies to improve operations; and more.

Canto said the department will use the strategic plan to guide decisions over the next 10 years.

“This plan here is the next 10 years of our department,” he said. “But a strategic plan is fluid. It can change tomorrow.”

Rochester Hills City Councilman Ryan Deel said the strategic plan is “fantastic.”

“It’s forward-thinking, and it’s the kind of data-driven approach that I appreciate,” Deel said.

For more information, visit www.rochesterhills.org/fire or call the nonemergency line, (248) 656-4720.

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