The Town of Mocksville prioritizes the well-being of its residents and actively seeks ways to ensure their health and safety. Recently, the Mocksville Fire Department achieved recognition from the North Carolina League of Municipalities for successfully completing the NC Fire Department Risk Assessment Program.
The program assists fire chiefs and towns in uncovering shortcomings, needs, or potential pitfalls that could present future problems, like OSHA safety issues, employment liabilities, or general insurance claims. The risk assessment program offers a comprehensive fire department review, including evaluating facilities, equipment, and operational policies. It also examines the department’s human resources policies, like hiring and training.
“There are less than ten fire departments across the state that have completed this process, so we feel it is an exceptional feat,” stated TJ Deluca, fire department risk management consultant for the North Carolina League of Municipalities, as he presented a plaque to Chief Frank Carter and Human Resources Specialist Emily Quance at the Mocksville Town Board’s May meeting.
“The risk assessment is extremely comprehensive, and Chief Carter and Emily worked tirelessly with me to put the agency in a good position. I found the Mocksville Fire Department exceptional. You should be proud of where they are today.”
Pursuing the assessment resulted from a SWOT analysis the Town conducted of each department in 2022 as part of its strategic planning process. By analyzing its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, an organization is better situated to devise a successful strategy for the future. The Town developed strategic goals based on the analysis.
The first was to invest in personnel, equipment, facilities, and programs that enhance Mocksville’s high level of public safety. To accomplish that goal, the Town Board developed three objectives for the fire department, including completing this organizational risk assessment and incorporating the recommendations into daily operations.
Chief Carter said the comprehensive risk assessment took about eight months to complete. After the full evaluation, Deluca’s only recommendation was that the department develop a written harassment/anti-bullying policy, which they did.
“TJ spoke highly of where we are, and I was pleased to hear that we are ahead of most departments our size. He was really good to work with. Having a fire service background, he knows and understands the fire department culture and what to look out for on behalf of firefighters. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy,” Chief Carter said with a grin. “When you are in an organization, you can have an insulated view of it. Having someone from the outside come in and take a look from a fresh perspective can be helpful.”
Quance agreed, adding that while the process was lengthy, she appreciated the opportunity to dive into policies and procedures. “I always want to make sure we are doing everything right. Working with TJ Deluca and Chief Carter was a pleasure – open communication and teamwork – I am excited and proud of this achievement.”
Another objective from the 2022 strategic plan was to invest in full-time firefighters to staff Fire Station #1 to increase coverage and reduce response times for fire and rescue calls.”
“The Mocksville Board of Commissioners made a wise decision to fund six full-time firefighters in FY2022-23. Mocksville’s tax base has grown to almost $1.1 billion, and the town with its surrounding fire district accounts for 15% of Davie County’s population. Continuing to serve the community with only a part-time/volunteer fire department was not fully meeting our growing community’s needs,” said Mocksville Town Manager Ken Gamble.
As a small department, hiring full-time firefighters who already had the required certifications was necessary. The department first looked to its part-time staff to fill the positions. Bryson Collins, Ben Lagle, James Osborne, and Matt Turney had the prerequisites to take on full-time roles. Ryan Hall came from the Statesville City Fire Department. Taylor Davis had all the required certifications from several years as a volunteer firefighter in Davie County. Training began last fall, and the six were sworn in on February 7th during the monthly Town Board meeting.
Chief Carter is grateful to Gamble and the Town Board for prioritizing the positions in the Town’s budget, saying, “I think there was a lot of assumption over the years that we were a paid department. People have always been shocked to learn otherwise.”
He explained that the need for full-time staff has developed as call volume has increased, requirements for volunteers have multiplied, and overall volunteerism across the nation has decreased. When he joined the department in 1987, it was predominantly staffed by volunteers. But as people began to work further from home and fewer employers let their employees leave to fight a fire or assist with an accident while on the clock, it became harder to provide adequate protection.
Having someone on duty at the station at all times is critical for preventing gaps in coverage and slower-than-desired response times. Chief Carter shared that while the department was staffed during the day, there wasn’t anyone there at night. “The pager could go off, and I would get up at my house, drive five or six miles in to get a truck, and then we could be at a scene in 10 or 15 minutes. Considering that a fire doubles in size every 30 seconds, that wasn’t fast enough.”
The department aims to meet the response parameters established by the National Fire Protection Association, as outlined in NFPA 1710. This standard suggests that firefighters should be ready to respond within one minute and have the first engine arrive at the scene within four minutes for 90% of responses. A full alarm response, including two engines and a ladder, should be on the scene within eight minutes for 90% of responses.
To achieve that goal, the department now has two full-timers on each shift, along with part-timers and volunteers. “Our goal is a minimum of five firefighters so that they can staff an engine and a ladder to get started at a fire scene. A full response usually takes 15 to 20 people.”
Chief Carter emphasized the importance and the value of volunteers in the department, and he hopes no one is deterred from volunteering to serve their community. “There are many roles in the fire service, such as firefighter, medical response, rescue & support, that can be filled. MFD is always looking for dedicated volunteers to help fill those roles. Our volunteers are a valued and instrumental part of our team, and we need them to continue providing a quality service to the community.”
To stay ahead of the curve, the last objective of the strategic plan is to invest in the planning and development of Fire Station #2 to prepare for future residential growth, enhance rescue response and improve emergency readiness. The first step will be to conduct a study to determine the area of the Town where a new fire station would best meet growth and response time needs.
“The comprehensive fire needs study the Town will engage in with NC Fire Chief Consulting in FY2023-24 will look at our long-term needs, including staffing, apparatus, facilities, and funding model,” said Gamble. “As Mocksville continues to see rapid growth, we need a strategic growth plan rather than reacting to changes as they occur.”
Mocksville residents can take pride in the Town’s commitment to their safety and well-being. The completion of the NC Fire Department Risk Assessment Program and the investment in full-time firefighters demonstrate the Town’s dedication to enhancing public safety. By leveraging external expertise, implementing improvements, and planning for future growth, Mocksville is actively working to create a secure and prepared community for its residents.