Nixa Fire District Unanswered Questions
1) With a stated desire to engage with diverse points of view, how do we promote opportunities for increased diversity in our community?
Without the advantage of clarification on the intent of this question I will address two perspectives of increased diversity.
First as an organization. As we look at recruitment and retention issues that are addressed in another question, we work to find outreach opportunities that will put our employment needs in front of a large and diverse group of people. We identified military personnel as not only a very diverse group, but additionally a group that has many of the prerequisite work/job skills we need in public service.
In a document entitled “2012 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community” published by the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, the percentage of service members who identify as minority was 30% and that number was increasing comparatively on an annual basis.
We believe there is great value in our community and particularly our children having a person they can identify with when they visit the fire station or we visit the schools. In this aspect we are talking primarily about “visual” diversity. It is our belief that by reaching a more “visually” diverse group of potential candidates we will ultimately see a more “visually” diverse workforce in our organization. As such it is our hope that gender, race, and national origin become less of a perceived barrier to those who are interested in the fire service.
From a community perspective I would first say that perhaps we are far more diverse than is perceived. Our Fire Inspector Ron (RZ) Smith visits with business owners when he conducts fire safety inspections at their facilities. In this process we are constantly obtaining feedback that indicates the business community is a very diverse group. It just may not be in the area of “visual” diversity mentioned previously. We have small business owners from many countries and various nationalities that do a considerable amount of their business in the global environment based right here in our community. There is also diversity in thought, perspective, and belief that may not be viewed in the course of normal business transactions.
In our state, small businesses are a growing diverse group. According to “Missouri Small Business Profile 2016” published by the Office of Advocacy- U.S. Small Business Administration, minority owned small business increased 48% from 2012 to 2015 in the State of Missouri.
It is our belief that action which encourages small business growth may increase our opportunity to have a widely diverse community. This includes supporting those businesses when they are located here and shopping local first before going outside the community.
Without a question there are many related issues that the community could recognize beyond the scope of our organization such as affordable housing, increased job opportunities, and public transportation that would contribute to the diversity of the community. It is our belief that all of the stakeholders in the community must work together to identify and address barriers and institute best practices that would encourage growth and opportunity.
2) For Nixa Fire District What are the goals of the Fire District over the next few years?
The Fire District is in the process of developing our next five year strategic plan, which would cover the years 2018-2022. In the process four strategies have been identified as follows:
Strategy 1: We will research, develop and implement plans to prepare for future needed facilities.
Strategy 2: We will plan, prioritize, and implement future staffing across all levels of the organization.
Strategy 3: We will research, develop, and implement programs and processes to meet the increasing operational demands of the organization.
Strategy 4: We will research, develop, and implement strategies to maximize recruitment and retention of employees.
The action plans to address each of the strategies is still in process, but I can speak with some certainty to a few of the likely outcomes. We will be looking to develop a training site at our Station 1 location which would include training props to increase the skills and abilities of our crews to be prepared for response to fires and other significant incidents in the District. This will be a multi-year project with several phases of development. If the growth we have seen in the last two years continues we will be looking towards needing another station, staffing for that station, and another ladder/aerial truck in the 5-7 year range.
We will be hiring a full time training position that has been unfilled since 2012. We realized a need in 2012 to build a station in the North part of our District due to longer response times and increasing call volume in that area. In order to staff that station we would need to add an additional 3 firefighters. When the Fire Chief was promoted from the training position it left a vacancy. We did not fill the training position in order to utilize that money to hire the 3 additional firefighters. Those positions have been filled and Station 5 has been online and operational for nearly two years. In addition to the training position we have a need to add a position in our front office as the Human Resource demands in the organization increase with additional personnel.
As we develop and implement our strategic plan we will have an eye on our current situation status. Our goals in this area are to maximize our efforts to maintain or improve response times and service quality to the community. Anticipating significant growth we will outline the steps to not lose ground as we develop the plans for future growth. This may include technology, equipment, and new approaches to service delivery.
Recruitment and retention is a developing issue in public service. We are exploring ways to reach a more diverse and larger group of potential candidates. This will be a multi-faceted approach when the action plan is developed. Even as we develop these plans we taking actions to address the issues. We are currently targeting military veterans as one of the groups for recruitment into the fire service. We are also attending job recruitment fairs at local and regional community colleges as those opportunities arise.