Sandy Fire Department rings in new year with a lot to be happy aboutJan 25, 2021 11:09AM ● By Justin Adams
Bells like this one have been installed in all the city’s fire departments as part of a safety campaign themed around “Ringing the Bell.” (Justin Adams/City Journals)
By Justin Adams | [email protected]
Things are pretty good right now inside the Sandy City Fire Department. During a January city council meeting, Chief Bruce Cline announced that his department was fully-staffed for the first time in years.
Thanks to the council’s property tax raise in 2019, the department was able to hire seven firefighters, who were sworn in during that same council meeting. For years, they were unable to hire enough firefighters to replace those who retired or moved on to other jobs, Cline told the Sandy Journal.
“I’m grateful for that council that passed that tax increase, because it has made a difference,” Cline said.
One of those differences is better working conditions for all the department’s employees.
“It makes it safer, it reduces the workload on the individuals,” said Deputy Chief Ryan McConaghie. “We’re providing the best service possible but at the expense of more work for each individual. [Now that we’re fully staffed] we’re reducing the fatigue factor. Instead of doing four jobs, you can concentrate on one or two.”
But that’s not the only recent improvement for the department’s working conditions.
Thanks to a FEMA grant of over $200,000, the department was able to procure a mechanical system for its truck bays which contains the trucks’ diesel exhaust fumes when they start up. According to the CDC, “scientific evidence suggests an association between lung cancer and occupational exposure to diesel exhaust emissions.”
The department is also looking after employees’ mental health. Starting this year, they’ve begun holding annual mental health check-ups. While post-traumatic stress disorder is usually associated more with military or police service, Cline said it is a factor for firefighters as well, who respond to not only fires but also serious car accidents and medical emergencies.
“This is a very traumatic job. I’ve seen things that I’d never want you to see, but I’ve seen things that I wish everybody could see. And sometimes they’re the same thing,” he said.
These and other efforts to improve the safety of its firefighters tie into a broader safety campaign throughout the department based on the slogan, “Ringing the Bell.”
Based on a tradition at Station 34, each station has had a small metal bell installed, which firefighters ring as they head out to calls. Cline compared it to the way some football teams will touch a logo or slogan printed above the doors that lead out to their stadium. When they ring the bell, they’re encouraged to think about what motivates them to do what they do.
A video produced by the city highlights some of the city’s firefighters explaining what they “ring the bell for.” The video is cut together with dramatic music and footage of Sandy’s firefighters suiting up and fighting a controlled fire as part of a training exercise. You can find the video on the city’s YouTube channel.
The effort to take care of the city’s firefighters has been appreciated, as evidenced by the department’s results in a recent employee survey conducted by the city. The Fire Department ranked the highest out of any in the city for multiple categories measuring employee satisfaction.
That’s important, because happy employees means better service for residents, according to Cline.
“From our leadership to our newest firefighters, we’re taking care of the customers. We’re taking care of the firefighters. The city is taking care of them. And it translates all the way down to Mrs. Jones that you show up on her porch because she needs help getting back in bed,” Cline said.
Although the department is in a good place, there is still room for improvement, according to Cline.
While most departments in the valley run three people on fire engines and two on ambulances, Sandy only has two for each. This sometimes creates situations where one station doesn’t have the manpower to respond to certain calls and has to draw on the resources of a nearby station. This can create a domino effect that creates holes in the department’s coverage across the city.
To alleviate this, Cline would like seven new positions to be created which he said would empower each station to be more flexible in how they respond to calls.