Keeping up with the Community: El Mirage Fire Department looks ahead to enhance long term operations

Fire departments and emergency medical services (EMS) providers face numerous challenges to keep up with demand, navigate staffing limitations, and ensure the maximization of their ability to provide timely services to community members. Between balancing these priorities and performing effective day-to-day operations, looking ahead to anticipate regional growth and the additional risks presented by population increases and new commercial development is often overlooked in the grand scheme of public safety operational constraints.

The El Mirage Fire Department (EMFD) stayed one step ahead of the curve by seeking out public safety technical assistance with the Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM) to evaluate the current operational efficiency and status of the EMFD and identify future needs for strategic planning purposes. The project was led by CPSM’s Senior Manager for Fire and EMS Joe Pozzo, and CPSM’s Director of Quantitative Analysis Dr. Dov Chelst.

“Data driven, long term strategy and planning is essential to enable the department to optimize operations and allocate resources and funding most effectively to serve the community,” said El Mirage Fire Chief Michael R. Long. “With the help of CPSM, EMFD is prioritizing the future safety of our community by doing the research, planning improvements, and implementing solutions now.”

During the study, CPSM reviewed community risks via an All-Hazards Risk Assessment, which analyzed factors, from the environment and population growth to building hazards and incident demand, that enhance risk of emergency within a community. CPSM also analyzed staffing, deployment and performance data to evaluate how well the department provided services per key state and federal standards.

After completing its evaluation and analysis, in February 2022, CPSM issued a 149-page report outlining EMFD’s functionality and recommending data-backed solutions to expand the department’s operational capacity. CPSM recommended enhancing service delivery in terms of additional assets, which include a second fire station, a ladder truck, personnel expansion and improvements within the primary public safety answering point provided by the City of Tolleson.

These additions would alleviate the risks presented by the presence and anticipated growth of commercial development and multifamily residences in the El Mirage community and address current operational constraints related to response time and staffing.

“CPSM’s analysis really shows us the map forward,” added Chief Long. “Effective partnerships are key to effective solutions, and the CPSM team brought combined expertise in data, management and fire service. They truly understood the needs of our department and the information we shared with them, so their analysis and recommendations provide our department and our community a lot of value.”

The study and its recommendations have been received well by the El Mirage community and are already being put in action. El Mirage City Council approved the addition of three new firefighter positions in line with the proposed staffing model, as well as a timeline for a new fire station and ladder truck to be added to the City’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan.

The City secured funding to purchase land and will seek bonds for the station and other key projects for the city in the coming fiscal year (FY23). In FY24, El Mirage has plans to fund the fire station design. The following year, the City anticipates beginning construction, adding new personnel, and purchasing a ladder truck.

These operational expansions will enable faster responses and ensure that adequate resources are provided to meet community needs in the long term. EMFD’s enthusiasm in implementing CPSM’s recommendations highlights their ongoing mission to provide top-quality and efficient public safety services to their community.