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Sarasota Thursday, May 6, 2021 8 months ago

County considers improvements to fire department

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The county is considering expanding its Rapid Response Unit and improvement stations in south Sarasota County.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Once again, the Sarasota County Fire Department is considering improvements to its service, particularly when it comes to its Rapid Response Unit.

The department hired Emergency Services Consulting International to analyze the department’s successes and areas where it could improve.

ESCI first made recommendations for improvement to the county in 2016, many of which Chief Michael Regnier said the department has accomplished over the past few years.

Since the last consulting plan, the department has increased staffing, established a messaging platform for departmentwide communication, began the process for a dedicated regional training academy and implemented a tiered emergency response.

“Through the support of the board and administration, we were able to accomplish a lot,” Regnier said. “I think now is a great opportunity to continue to move the department forward.”

ESCI Director of Business Intelligence Stuart McCutcheon said that although the county is off to a great start, there are several areas of service the department could improve.

Those include increasing service to south county, creating service demand zones that highlight the appropriate response for various areas of the county and evaluating analytic options with computer-aided dispatch.

A key component to improvements, McCutcheon said, could be the county’s Rapid Response Unit, which launched in 2019. The unit is used to answer calls that do not require an ambulance, freeing up the county’s ambulances for calls that require transportation to the hospital.

Since 2019, the department has piloted the unit throughout various portions of the county to measure its success.

“I brag on it a lot, and everyone who hears it is very interested in it,” McCutcheon said. “I think there’s real opportunity for not only the fire department but the county to receive national recognition for this program.”

To keep the program robust, ESCI suggested the county permanently fund three additional rapid-response units. The funding, McCutcheon said, would allow the department flexibility and efficiency when answering calls.

“We don’t need to send everything to every call every time,” McCutcheon said. “We need to be more strategic in how we deploy our resources.”

In addition to the increased rapid response vehicles, ESCI suggested improvements or an overhaul to Station 23 in Nokomis and a potential new station in South County. Under the plan, personnel at Station 7 on Fruitville Road would be relocated to Station 9 on Bee Ridge Road.

In the past six years, the county has added or overhauled seven stations, with another being built in North Port.

Chair Al Maio said the commission is “immensely proud” of the department for its work, particularly over the past year, and he’d like to support anything that would improve the department.

“Our personnel get all the kudos for what they’ve done each and every day. It’s just outstanding,” Maio said. “They are showing their worth out there in the community.”

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