Putting experience to use in serving our firefighters.
Firefighters have one of the toughest, most wildcard, jobs out there. The risks they run any day of the week can have serious consequences, and T.J. Deluca knows. He’s gone from starting in 1987 with a volunteer squad to a firefighter with the City of New York Fire Department. Deluca currently still works part time as both an instructor and as a company officer with a small combination department while working at the League for the best of its Bravest. Now, he’s carrying out a first-of-its-kind program to that end.
“The fire department is a very different dynamic than other departments within local government,” said Deluca, who in all has 30 years’ experience in the fire service. “And sometimes having the opportunity to have sat in a kitchen in a fire house for so long or riding in that fire truck, it gives me a different perspective that I can translate to that town manager or HR director and kind of offer them what maybe is going on at the fire station to help them better understand some of the needs and some of the difficulties that they may be having.”
Deluca, for the past 18 months or so, has been meeting with fire chiefs and other municipal leaders on that mission—to share in the context of the department and offer evidence-backed measures toward reducing those daily risks, simple to great, that firefighters face.
If it sounds familiar, it’s a first cousin of the League’s popular Law Enforcement Risk Review, created by Associate Executive Director of Risk Management Services Bryan Leaird and Director of Risk Control Tom Anderson, that police departments across North Carolina in recent years have tapped to identify areas to improve. They can run from policy manual language to higher risks that officers share around the clock. That particular program became a template for other municipal leagues around the nation.
“And with the success that was found here in North Carolina, it was an obvious choice that we should branch out eventually to other departments, specifically fire,” Deluca explained.
The League, he continued, is committed to providing fire chiefs the real time boots-on-the-ground resources they need to help manage everyday risks impacting firefighter safety as well as the overall fire department operations. This specific program, the first-of-its-kind, was fine-tuned by a specially arranged Fire Chiefs Advisory Committee to meet departments’ needs.
On the Advisory Committee are Chief Pierre Brewston of Albemarle, Chief Scottie Harris of Black Mountain, Chief Dave Schmidt of Carrboro, City Manager and Fire Chief Jeff Cash of Cherryville, Chief Donna Black of Duck, Chief Tee Tallman of Jacksonville, Chief Ron Fowler of Monroe, Chief Blue Born of Ocean Isle Beach, Chief Kenneth Torain of Roxboro, Chief Bob Parnell of Salisbury, Mayor and Fire Chief Walter Gardner of Warrenton in addition to Deluca.
In the program’s 18 months so far (as of this writing), the more frequently requested offerings include:
24/7 risk control consulting, which invites all issues impacting the fire department;
Risk assessments, which work in partnership with fire chiefs to assess many of the high-risk issues within the department and provide effective controls (including, at times, financially with the League’s RMS Safety Grant Program); Procedure/policy review and recommendations; Claims history and trend evaluation, which looks locally, statewide, and nationally among similar-size departments to help shape accurate and meaningful solutions; Onsite training, a risk-management eye within the fire service.
“If we can do anything to improve firefighter safety and thus reduce claims and losses, we’ve won,” Deluca noted. “But, on a personal side, my dedication to not just our fire chiefs but our men and women who ride that fire truck and go to the emergency scene, if we can be that resource for them and offer them absolutely anything, I take tremendous pride in being able to fulfill whatever they need.”