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Are there better ways? Rochester Fire Dept. looks to future

November 16, 2018

In the last two decades, the way firefighters battle fires has changed. Now, it’s the Rochester Fire Department’s turn to bring its strategic plan up-to-date.

Led by Fire Chief Eric Kerska, about 20 members of the department are looking at the department’s strengths and weaknesses to create a strategic plan to help steer the department into Rochester’s expanding future.

“I think it is important, not only for the community, but for the organization itself to go though this process. To take a moment to look inward and to question, ‘What are we doing? Why are we doing it? And are there better ways we could do things?’” Kerska said.

The public will have an opportunity to be involved in the process as the department is holding three community planning sessions later this month. Kerska said he doesn’t know what to expect from the sessions, but he wanted to at least ask the community how they believe the department is doing.

The city is also going through the strategic planning process, which Kerska saw as a unique opportunity. Even before he became chief, Kerska said he felt the department needed to address its strategic plan in light of the city’s growth.

“When I became chief and found out where the city was in the process and found out how far along they were, I felt as though this is the perfect time to start,” Kerska said. “We’re not off on our own, planning in a vacuum. The city is far enough along, now we can take a look at ourselves in the context of what the city is doing.”

In fact, the plan the fire department will create will “nest” under the city’s own plan. As Kerska said, the department will need to be able to support the city’s vision and plan. The new plan will also give the city’s decision-makers a clear picture on life safety and property conservation risks within the city of Rochester as it continues to rapidly grow.

This is the first time in more than 25 years that the department will update its strategic plan. In order to complete the plan, Kerska said the department will look at everything, not just its firefighting efforts. That includes the department’s administrative division, which handles its budget, the fire marshal’s office and the emergency management division.

The first meeting to work on the plan was held last month. In addition to being surprised by the department’s enthusiasm, Kerska has already found a few areas that will need to be addressed. Among them is the city’s aging population.

“The retirement of the largest generation in U.S. history is now in full swing, and what does that mean for the fire department? What does that mean for our customers?” Kerska said.

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