The Town of Mocksville consistently strives to enhance the well-being and safety of its residents. The North Carolina League of Municipalities recently recognized the Mocksville Fire Department for completing its NC Fire Department Risk Assessment Program.
This program serves as a valuable tool for fire chiefs and towns to identify any deficiencies, requirements, or potential challenges that may pose future problems. It encompasses various aspects, such as evaluating operational policies, facilities, apparatuses, and even human resource policies like recruitment and training.
During the May meeting of the Mocksville Town Board, TJ Deluca, the fire department risk management consultant for the North Carolina League of Municipalities, presented Chief Frank Carter and Human Resources Specialist Emily Quance with a plaque to honor their accomplishment. Deluca expressed his admiration for the department’s commitment and diligence throughout the extensive risk assessment process.
“There are less than ten fire departments across the state that have completed this process, so we feel it is an exceptional feat,” stated Deluca. “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.”
The assessment was conducted as a result of a SWOT analysis performed by the Town in 2022 as part of its strategic planning efforts. By thoroughly examining the department’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, the organization gained valuable insights to formulate a successful strategy for the future. The Town Board established strategic goals based on this analysis, with the first goal being to invest in personnel, equipment, facilities, and programs that enhance public safety in Mocksville. To achieve this objective, the Board set forth three specific aims for the fire department, including the completion of the organizational risk assessment and the implementation of its recommendations into daily operations.
Chief Carter mentioned that the comprehensive risk assessment took approximately eight months to finalize. Following the evaluation, Deluca’s sole recommendation was for the department to develop a written harassment/anti-bullying policy, which they promptly addressed.
Expressing his satisfaction with the outcome, Chief Carter highlighted Deluca’s positive remarks about the department’s progress, emphasizing that they are ahead of most departments of similar size. He also acknowledged the value of an outsider’s fresh perspective in assessing an organization, particularly one rooted in a distinct culture like the fire department. “Having a fire service background, he knows what to look out for on behalf of firefighters. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy,” 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.”
One of the objectives outlined in the 2022 strategic plan was to employ full-time firefighters to enhance coverage and reduce response times for fire and rescue calls at Fire Station #1.
Mocksville Town Manager Ken Gamble commended the Mocksville Board of Commissioners for prioritizing the funding of six full-time firefighter positions in the Town’s budget for the fiscal year 2022-23. “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.”
To fill the full-time positions, the department initially turned to its part-time staff. Bryson Collins, Ben Lagle, James Osborne, and Matt Turney possessed the necessary qualifications and were appointed to the roles. Additionally, Ryan Hall was recruited from the Statesville City Fire Department. Taylor Davis had all the required certifications from several years as a volunteer firefighter in Davie County. Training commenced last fall, and the six firefighters were officially sworn in on February 7th during the monthly Town Board meeting.
Chief Carter expressed gratitude to Gamble and the Town Board for recognizing the importance of these positions and prioritizing them in the Town’s budget. He explained that the need for full-time staff had emerged gradually over the years due to increased call volumes, stricter volunteer requirements, and a decline in volunteerism nationwide. In the past, the department heavily relied on volunteers, but as people started working farther away from their homes, and fewer local companies allowed their employees to answer calls while on the clock, it became increasingly challenging to ensure adequate protection.
Maintaining staff presence at the station at all times is crucial for preventing coverage gaps and ensuring prompt response times. Chief Carter revealed that although the department had daytime staffing, there were no personnel onsite during the 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.”
As part of their current strategy, the department assigns two full-time firefighters per shift, in addition to part-timers and volunteers. Ideally, a minimum of five firefighters is necessary to initiate firefighting operations, typically involving 15 to 20 personnel for a complete response.
The MFD tries to follow the response parameters established by the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 1710 policy, which suggests that
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.”
As part of their proactive approach, the final objective of the strategic plan is to plan and develop Fire Station #2, anticipating future residential growth, enhancing rescue response capabilities, and improving emergency readiness. The initial step involves conducting a comprehensive fire needs study, scheduled for FY2023-24, in collaboration with NC Fire Chief Consulting.
“This study 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.”