The presented paper evaluates the strategic plan developed by the Watsonville Fire Department. The adoption of the new strategy was caused by rapid population growth and its consequences. The department could no longer cope with the burdens of the increased population rates that resulted in the growth of calls, increase of response time, and scarcity of the resources needed to address the emergency.
The plan was divided into several parts, including the mission, goals, and the detailed guide on how to implement the changes. The plan seems to be rather comprehensive and throughout designed. It provides for the tight cooperation of the local and federal agencies as well as with the owners of the critical infrastructure buildings. The types of responses are classified on the basis of the kind of emergency. Additionally, the city was planned to be divided into several zones with higher or lower vulnerability and risks rates.
The few recommendations for the improvement of the strategic plan were suggested. First, the department was advised to enhance the warning capabilities of the city. Additionally, the prevention actions were prioritized as they ensure that fewer incidents requiring the response of the fire department would be needed.
Additionally, it was recommended for the fire department to establish more cooperation ties with extended number of the stakeholders to ensure that all the risks and vulnerabilities are assessed and that the strategies for their combatting and decreasing are incorporated in the plan. The building of the city’s gathering and analysis capabilities was also recommended for the department in order to reduce the emergencies.
Watsonville Fire Department
The presented case analysis evaluates the strategic plan developed by the Watsonville Fire Department and identifies its strengths and weaknesses as well as provides a few tips and recommendations for improvement.
The Factors Driving the Changes within the Department
The Watsonville Fire Department experienced an urgent need to implement changes due to the following reasons. The primary cause referred to the rapid increase of the population over the last few years. The demographic shifts that have occurred within this small area have incurred in a significant burden put on the fire and emergency departments. Other reasons that drove the changes implementation are rooted in the population increase.
Naturally, the number of senior inhabitants of the area has also increased, which meant that the assistance they needed multiplied significantly. Additionally, the increase of this category of population has also impacted the risks and vulnerabilities rates within the city, namely, supplemented it with the accidents that might be caused by the ordinary forgetfulness or other memory disorders.
Another reason for the new plan implementation was correlated with the growing number of the residents. Needless to say that the number of emergency calls has also doubled or even tripled whereas the time given for response prolonged as the streets were occupied with the extra cars, bicycles, and passer-byes. Indeed, the old techniques and procedures that were put in force needed to be revised and renewed as they were ineffective in the realm of the rapidly changing landscape of the city.
The need to patrol and address the emergency situations in the neighboring areas has even increased the burden that was laid on the shoulders of the fire department. It should also be stressed that the location of the offices was not reviewed for quite a long time, which left some of the most risky areas without proper protection and surveillance. The personnel were not capable of coping with the extended amount of challenges and the need to perform diverse functions. Therefore, the upgrading of their skills and abilities was viewed as a top priority. Moreover, they had to agree how to prioritize the emergencies and act in case there are a few of them occurring at the same time. All of the above-mentioned facts had driven the changes in the organization of the fire department and the adoption of the new strategic plan.
The Advantages of the Plan Adopted by the Department
The few features of the plan and the strategies used by the department are to be specifically admitted as the most positive and effective. First of all, it should be stressed that the plan seems to be rather comprehensive as it refers to the actions that are to be performed within the department and the activities that are to be implemented in cooperation with other agencies. Additionally, drafting this plan the department commits to take actions to prevent the emergencies from occurring by identifying the areas with the highest risks and vulnerabilities and by predicting the nature or human-caused activities that might put the city at danger. Furthermore, the Watsonville Fire Department obliged to take care of its citizens and assist it in mastering skills needed for the response to the emergencies. The evaluation of the strongest aspects of the plan is presented below. It should be admitted that the department classifies the responses to the attacks. Therefore, there are specific procedures set for the response to the initial stages of the emergency and more complicated for the further stages of the emergency. Such a plan will help to allocate the human and material resources in a more reasonable way depending on the nature of the danger in question. Thus, the most severe ones would receive the most urgent response, while others will be managed with fewer expenses.
Additionally, the plan provides for the zoning of the territory. The later will help to identify the most risky zone and increase the surveillance of them as well as decrease the time for initial response by putting more resources, both human and material, near the place of increased danger. In the framework of this zoning, the department also prioritized the buildings that should be addressed first. They include hospitals, police stations, banks and other facilities that are important for the normal functioning of the cities. Setting of the priorities is crucial as in case the hospital is left unattended during the fire, there would be no place to provide the victims of the fire with the basic medical assistance.
Additionally, it obliged to provide the healthy and effective force that would be capable of preventing the emergencies from occurring and from further spreading once they have started.
Moreover, depending on the essence of the emergency and the area where it occurred, the department had identified time and personnel needed for the response. The department was also about to introduce the campaigns that would make the residents of the area facilitate the response to the initial attacks and challenges.
Another important feature refers to the plan itself. One of its provisions stated that the plan would be revised twice a year and, if needed, the character of the functions as well as the zoning. The goals concentration would be revised in accordance with the remarks made in a course of its implementation. The ability of the personnel as well as equipment to stay in service would also be checked on the regular basis to ensure that the high-quality response would be provided.
In order to mitigate the damages caused by the emergencies as well as to deteriorate the negative consequences for the health of victims, the department has also took care of the medical services that would be offered to victims immediately. It is crucial for saving of human lives and for insuring the safety within the most risky areas.
Having assessed all vulnerabilities and risks, the department also decided to establish one more affiliate in Buena Vista area. It is important, as the overburdened departments would not be able of providing proper responses for the emergency situations.
The Recommendations for Further Improvements
In general, the plan is rather realistic and has all the chances for success. Of course, the strategic plan suggested by the Watsonville Fire Department is not free from the flaws. First of all, it lacks some details in regard to the organization of the activities that aim at the implementation of the plan. The strategy is too broad and not specific. Additionally, there are no specific names of persons who would be responsible for the changes implementations as well as no references as to the financial matters of its realization.
As to the content itself, it should be stressed that the emergency department should have paid more attention to the preventative procedures in order to decrease the availability of fires and other incidents. In cooperation with the educational institutions, they could have developed trainings or a program for the residents of the city that would teach them the basics of safety. Additionally, as it was mentioned before, the financial issues are not addressed in details. Perhaps, in order to satisfy all the needs of the department, the head of the Watsonville Fire Department should have planned to participate in the budgeting procedures.
As to the cooperation with the stakeholders, it should be stated that this aspect is to be expanded. The local, state, and federal government agencies and departments alongside with the private sector and non-profit organizations should be involved in the development of the strategic plan to ensure that all risks and vulnerabilities are identified. All of these key players come from different spheres and ensure the comprehensiveness of the strategic plan. (OCHA, 2013)
Another important issue that has been left unattended is the building of the city’s threat gathering and analysis capabilities. The department should develop the procedures for the gathering, reviewing and spreading of threat information between the city, state, and federal organizations as well as the private sector. Additionally, it should introduce the system for the public reporting of the suspicious behavior. The department might also organize the trainings for the law enforcement and critical infrastructure owners on recognizing the suspicious criminal or terroristic behavior representing the threat for the society.
Apart from the above-mentioned activities, the strategic plan should also incorporate the development of the strategies for evacuation and shelter procedures. The key goals should include the development of the inter-disciplinary responsibilities for the evacuation responses and shelter-in-place and conducting of the exercises testing the evacuation decision-making process and the operational capabilities of the department. Additionally, the department should enhance the joint information center and warning capabilities as it helps to prevent more damages from occurring (Red Cross, 2006).
Finally, in cooperation with the local government and agencies, the department should strengthen the mass care capabilities by working with the community hubs, organizations, and NGOs and ensure that the city would be capable of providing the immediate shelter, first medical aid, the distribution of bulk and related services for the victims of emergency incidents.
The strategic plan of Watsonville Fire Department is rather comprehensive as it provides step-by-step guide ensuring the challenges raised by the increase of the population would be overcome. A few recommendations regarding the prevention part of the plan as well as the actions that are needed to be taken to back-up the plan have been suggested.