Message From the Chief

In reflecting on this past year, two often repeated phrases come immediately to mind: “What a difference a year makes,” and “A lot can happen in a year.” The fundamental truths of these two statements are certainly present in what the Fire District has accomplished in just 12 short months. As we reported last year, our environment has changed significantly. The economic outlook in our Cities and County continues to grow brighter and the demand for fire and emergency medical services continues to rise at rates not seen in more than 10 years. In 2016, the Fire District answered 51,935 emergency calls and transported 33,500 patients to area hospitals. These numbers represent an 8% increase from 2015 (with no peak in sight) and, every time we review them, we contemplate how best to meet the expectations of those we serve within the limits of our resources. Doing things the same old way or maintaining the status quo is simply not possible given our changing environment. If we are to continue to provide the kind of quality fire and emergency medical services our residents and visitors deserve, we must adapt to the challenges with innovative, proactive, and reasonable solutions to address the needs of our community. Within the pages of our website, you will find many examples of our improvement efforts this past year – efforts that also set the stage for the years ahead. 

Fire Chief
Recognizing that multiple strategies were necessary to meet growing service demands, we embarked on a series of new initiatives and combined them with concepts successfully used by other organizations:

  • Expanded use of the Alpha/Bravo Rescue concept – running two rescue trucks out of specific stations with high call volume as a mechanism to deal with the increased demand in certain response areas. This alternate method of service delivery also attempts to address citizens’ questions regarding fire trucks following rescues trucks by dispatching the most appropriate equipment and personnel depending on the nature of the call.
  • Re-evaluated the types of emergency vehicles used by the District and initiated changes to reduce the size, weight, fuel consumption, purchase costs, and maintenance costs while maintaining the effectiveness of our fleet and incorporating enhancements that have become “best practices” in our industry across the country.
  • Developed partnerships with other governmental entities that provide greater capabilities and new tactics and strategies to deal with the changing threat environment like active shooter scenarios, mass casualty incidents, and, coming soon, hurricane responses. 
  • Enhanced training. With call volumes at all-time highs, quality of care cannot be allowed to diminish. Since actual performance in emergency situations is determined by the level of training provided to our employees, we have renewed our commitment to educate our personnel daily and develop the best skills necessary to save lives and protect property. There are now more sophisticated tools and resources available than ever before to assist us.
  • Financially, we have made the District’s accounting and budgeting practices more transparent and accurate than in prior years. Though still based on projections, every line item in the budget has been scrutinized to more closely track actual expenditures and revenues.
  • With respect to revenue, the District recently completed a complex EMS cost analysis in order to participate in federal funding available through the State’s Public Emergency Medical Transportation supplemental reimbursement program for transporting Medicaid patients. Pursuing this new source of revenue, not tied to property values, was another strategy to help keep pace with the demand for services.
  • Successfully lobbied to amend the Fire District’s Charter. The additional borrowing authority granted by the State Legislature has allowed the District to restore our capital and vehicle replacement plans without increasing taxes.
  • Created a multi-year, all-encompassing, financing plan capable of supporting the District’s current and future capital needs. Though debt is often frowned upon, our efforts have been focused on a reasonable, manageable, and affordable debt structure that benefits our taxpayers by providing much needed equipment and spreading low interest payments out over the useful life of each project. A problem looming since the Great Recession is now being actively managed.
  • We have all seen that commercial and residential construction has returned to our Cities and County. To address new growth and development, the Fire District is re-engaging developers regarding the impacts of their projects on fire and emergency medical services. Because more recent local data was available, the District has adopted revised impact fees that will address our capital and service needs in new growth areas.
These are just of few of the many ideas and concepts being used to improve our service to the community. As we enter 2017, we are excited about the possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead. There is no doubt that we will continue to evolve and rise to meet the challenges of tomorrow. The approach we’ve taken is one shared by many others: to be innovative, creative, and proactive in our problem solving; to carefully examine our practices and critically evaluate them with respect to the best practices in our industry and amongst our fire service peers; to be fiscally responsible and sensitive to the desires of taxpayers to keep service costs reasonable; to be open, honest, and transparent in communicating with and providing information to the public regarding all aspects of our organization; and, to continue to provide quality fire and emergency medical services, that are second to none, to our residents and visitors. We have come a long way in 12 short months. 

To our personnel, who continue to perform tirelessly for the sake of others, I am sincerely grateful for your support this past year. I can’t find better words to summarize the situation than those I used last year: what we can accomplish together is significantly greater than our individual talents allow. The proof can be found on this website and is documented in our annual report. 

What a difference a year makes!


Buddy Emerson
Fire Chief