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fire-board002-1-17 Advancement in technology and infrastructure improvements are the top priorities outlined in Sedona Fire District’s 2006-07 Strategic Plan.

By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers
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Advancement in technology and infrastructure improvements are the top priorities outlined in Sedona Fire District’s 2006-07 Strategic Plan.

“For two years in a row the goal has been the same,” SFD Fire Chief Matt Shobert said.

Each year, the district prepares a plan that allows it to set goals for the next five to 10 years.

Currently, technology and infrastructure are in the spotlight.

“In recent years, we’ve greatly enhanced our technology,” Shobert said, which allows SFD to provide “state of the art treatment unmatched by many metropolitan areas.”

But, as technology rapidly advances, SFD wants to keep its operations up to date.

“It’s all touched by technology,” SFD Telecommunications Manager Tad Coyner said.

According to Coyner, SFD plans to incorporate paperless patient care, update firefighter paging systems and make radio communication more efficient.

Paperless patient care allows SFD medics to enter patient information into a laptop on scene, making it immediately available to emergency care centers when the patient is brought in.

Information on each patient treated is stored in a database, and if emergency crews treat the patient again, the patient’s medical history is available.

Firefighters are currently paged when a call comes in using a voice pager. SFD hopes to switch to a text-based system in the future.

“There will be more information at their fingertips,” Coyner said.

Radio communication is another area SFD plans to improve.

Now, all communication is transmitted on a single channel. Coyner said this often causes two calls to battle for the same airspace.

In the future, SFD wants to designate one channel for initial contact between dispatch and emergency crews. Then, after crews respond, communication for the call would switch to another channel, freeing up the main line.

Coyner said critical messages can be lost in heavy traffic on a single channel.

Regarding infrastructure needs, Shobert said SFD needs to plan for the community’s growth.

Development between Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek, on Verde Valley School Road and in the Loop Road area, places additional demand on the district’s five existing stations, Shobert said.

SFD must find ways to provide the same level of service to these areas as it does to other areas of Sedona, according to Shobert.

This may mean constructing additional fire stations.

Currently, SFD is entertaining the idea of purchasing land in the Chapel area to address concerns along the Hwy. 179 corridor.

The Sedona Airport’s plan to build a tower also places additional strain on resources. Shobert said SFD has to have fire suppression personal on scene in case an emergency situation arises.

Also, existing fire stations need improvements.

Station No. 4 in Uptown is 40 years old and Shobert said structural improvements are needed.

To incorporate new technology and operate more stations, additional personnel is needed, which Shobert said is also important.

According to Shobert, all of the needs of the district —

technological, infrastructure, personnel and others — have to be prioritized to balance money available.

“Our absolute goal is to provide the best services to our community while maintaining a cost-effective mentality,” Shobert said.

Nine SFD staff and two board members worked on the steering committee to develop the 2006-07 plan.

SFD Governing Board Chair Caryn Maxwell said representatives from different areas work together to provide different points of view.

“We [the board] don’t want it to be our committee,” Maxwell said. “We want it to be the district’s.”

Maxwell sat in on the committee periodically with former board member Charles Christensen.

SFD now uses the strategic plan to budget and determine where the district is and plans to go in the future.

The board members, in particular, use the plan to tell them if Shobert’s doing his job, Maxwell said.

“It gives us a tool in which to evaluate the chief’s performance,” Maxwell said.

With the goals outlined in the plan, the board can see what progress Shobert makes toward achieving them.

Overall, Maxwell said the strategic plan is vital to SFD’s service.

“It’s helped to improve the communication and service the district provides,” Maxwell said. “I think every department should have a strategic plan.”


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