Fire Safety Committee Asks For Changes In GCFD

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This past spring, Village of Garden City Mayor Cosmo Veneziale formed a Fire Safety Committee to research and analyze data of the Garden City Fire Department. The tasks that were assigned to the committee were distributed and delegated to sub-committees for them to investigate and report. The overarching goal was to systematically gather information that would identify ways to help develop and enhance the fire department from member inception to operations, to management on and off the fire ground, improving the fire protection within the village, and more.

Recently, the Fire Safety Committee held a meeting in which they discussed their findings. The primary findings of their assessment was that members of the fire department from all ranks—past and present—have a positive attitude and willingness to help their community and perform at the highest level possible. However, members of the department have conveyed the belief that the media, public and other fire services have a negative impression of their efforts, competence and service to the community. The negative impression from the fire department stems from several anonymous written comments on numerous articles in local newspapers.

“It was also noted to us in interviews that generationally within the department there is a struggle and resistance to change,” the 54-page report said, which is currently on the village’s website. “Older members and former chiefs do not agree with not only changing the way the department operates, but also the forming of and possible adherence to a third party committee scrutinizing ‘the way we’ve always done it.’”

The committee said that as information was gathered, interviews conducted and operations witnessed, they find that although capable, the Garden City Fire Department needs to make changes to improve their response, make their fireground safer and increase their professionalism.

The Garden City Fire Department is fully volunteer. Within the operational organization there’s a tiered command structure that includes four chief officers, the Chief of Department and three assistant chiefs. Two companies, an engine company and truck company,make up the membership. Each of these companies have a captain and two lieutenants (1st Lieutenant and 2nd Lieutenant). These titles are each for a one year term.

“Each of these ranks answer to the next higher rank in a para-military fashion,” the report said. “If one of the positions is absent during an emergency it can be filled in by the Officer In Charge (OIC) accordingly. In conversations with chiefs, officers and members we have learned the members’ company designation does not relate to specific response responsibilities however according to chiefs, members will sometimes report to headquarters instead of a geographically closer firehouse to staff a ladder rather than an engine.”

One of the recommendations the committee has made is to eliminate the administrative companies—making all GCFD members a part of either Company 2 located at the Edgemere Firehouse in the west or Company 3 located at Emmet Place and St. James Street North in the east.

“Members should be assigned to these companies based on their geographic location of their place of residence,” the report continued. “Each of these companies will be led by an elected captain and two lieutenants. Apparatus must respond as quickly as possible. As per the GCFD membership map most members live closer to stations 2 and 3, which will provide a quicker response time for members to the firehouse, which in turn a quicker response of apparatus. This committee determined that a member who lives south of the tracks in the east takes, on average, five minutes to get to headquarters when in comparison to Station 3, which would take two minutes. These three minutes are vital on fireground operations.”

The committee also said that the department should implement a two-year term for all chief and company officers saying that having two year terms increases leadership continuity, increases confidence in decision making and allows other aspiring members to work on acquiring needed qualifications.

To read the full list of recommendations, visit the village’s website at www.gardencityny.net.

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