Fire department seeks citizens help in reaching accreditation

Becky Campbell • Sep 16, 2019 at 12:00 AM

As a public servant to Johnson City, Fire Chief Jim Stables knows where to find out how the department can improve — from Johnson City citizens themselves.

The department has requested citizens’ feedback through an online survey, which will help the department improve services, create a strategic plan and work toward national accreditation.

Stables, who just passed his two-year mark with the department, started the process in his own head about as soon as he was hired. Stables said he looked at the fire department’s structure and saw many areas that could be improved and give the city and citizens a better return on the investment in the organization.

One thing he did was pull certified firefighters from positions that civilians employees could do, which put more firefighters back into each station and allowed Stables to have officers at each station.

“I recognized there was a need for field supervision and field leadership, so the reason I proposed doing these things was that was a shortfall I saw walking in the door, and it was a shortfall that was pointed out in several of the studies that had been done prior to my arrival.”

Stables reorganized staff by assigning several firefighters as district chiefs, so “I have a total of six district chiefs — two per shift — and seven lieutenants throughout the system of nine stations.  We’ve been doing a lot of things that are measurable,” he said last week. “That’s the reason the strategic plan’s important, that’s the reason why the accreditation is important.”

He said the fire department’s strategic plan will “dovetail” into the city’s plan but also focus on the specific responsibilities of the fire service. Stables also added two civilian fire prevention officers to the two fire-certified fire marshals.

“We are at full staffing. We have four people in rookie school,” including a female, which gives the department two females. “I’d still like to do more, but it becomes a recruiting challenge because there’s a lot jobs out there and firefighting isn’t the most glamorous and doesn’t pay the best.”

Stables said the shift-based personnel who commit to the fire service career, “it’s impactful all the way around their life. They’re gone for 24 hours at a time, they don’t have the typical Christmas and birthday and holiday dinner with the family. The unsung heroes of the fire department are the spouses and children of the firefighters.”

Stables said the promotional opportunities allow people in the ranks to become more energized about their future.

“The succession planning is part of what I’m doing with this. Johnson City hired from outside this organization. I hope they never have to do that again. My goal is to set a foundation so the next leader can come from within. .... There are people here that would make great leaders, they just need a little more experience and exposure to some things they haven’t been exposed to.”

Accreditationby the International Fire Accreditation through the Center for Public Safety Excellence, and the development of a community-driven strategic plan is an integral component to ensure success, he said.

“This plan is intended to address the future goals and objectives, while ensuring that we are addressing the community priorities as you, the residents and visitors identify, in a more proactive manner for the next five years,” Stables said in a letter to the community. “Also, this community-driven strategic planning process is a part of the Johnson City Fire Department’s International Accreditation effort, which ensures we are always striving for excellence through continuous improvement and will be an ongoing effort, updated at least every five years.”

To participate in the survey, visit www.johnsoncitytn.org , click on ‘departments’ and then choose “fire department.”




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