Woodbury Public Safety wants more officers ready to fight firesPublic safety officials say the collaboration between police and fire means quickly knocking down the fire and limiting property damage.
By: Riham Feshir, Woodbury Bulletin
In two recent fire calls, a Woodbury police officer arrived on scene to take command while firefighters and a fire engine were en route.
Public safety officials say the collaboration between police and fire means quickly knocking down the fire and limiting property damage.
Much like firefighters trained as paramedics, the public safety department is seeking to provide the city with more police officers trained as firefighters.
First kicked off in 2006, the cross-training initiative came to a halt in 2009 when the economy shifted and the city of Woodbury couldn’t afford to pay for the training and increased wages.
Public safety officials brought back the idea to cross train staff at a City Council workshop meeting on Wednesday. It was an unofficial proposal before budget talks begin in August.
Public Safety Director Lee Vague said the city has been fortunate enough to have crime stay low and the need for more training isn’t a life or death decision.
However, the city aims to have at least five firefighters respond to calls within nine minutes, 90 percent of the time.
Current statistics show that the city has been meeting that rate only about half the time.
“We’re not satisfied with 63 percent,” Vague said.
It would be ideal to have two police officers who are also trained as a firefighter respond before the engine arrives, he said.
That way the fire department would only need to send out three firefighters, instead of five, to meet the 90 percent goal.
The Woodbury Public Safety Department currently has four police officers eligible for the training, which means it would need to hire more in order to have at least two police officers-firefighters available around the clock.
“We’re kind of trained up to where we can be right now,” Vague said.
Although it may not be as appealing to some police officers as others, city officials say the cross training still leaves room for individual identity and job duties.
“Officers enjoy having more than just the police officer role,” Woodbury City Administrator Clint Gridley said. “…You don’t change uniform.”
Woodbury City Council Member Amy Scoggins said the city has been catching up on many different projects that were put on hold due to budget cuts, like road construction for example, and it’s time to get this program back on track as well.
“I don’t want us to get behind on that,” she told Vague. “And you’ve always been pretty straightforward with us. You’re not asking for more than you need.”
Council Member Paul Rebholz said when the city first began talking about the cross training initiative in 2004, there were only a handful of cities across the country running a similar program.
Now the program is scattered in various spots across the country, however, a number of agencies are still exploring the idea, Vague said.
“They’re here and there, but it’s certainly not a trend,” he added.
The city holds a detailed budget discussion annually every August.
Gridley said the council will see how the police-firefighter cross training program would affect the 2013 budget at this year’s meeting.