The New Atoka Fire Department
On June 24, 2014, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen adopted two resolutions aimed at addressing the ongoing need for enhanced fire protection for the people and places of Atoka. The resolutions set in motion the launch of a whole new Department - and a new mission for the Town of Atoka. On July 1, 2015, the Atoka Fire Department will stand up and take over fire protection duties within the corporate limits of Atoka.
There are a lot of questions about the future and we'll try to answer them below. As we continue along in the process, we'll add more questions and answers to help keep you informed of our progress.
Q. July 1 is this week. Where are we in the process ? Is there an update ? Updated June 29, 2015
Q. Where are we in the process ? Is there an update ? Updated February 12, 2015
A. A great deal has gone on in the past few months. The Town has completed the hiring for the Department - filling the ranks with more than 160 years of combined firefighting experience and some of the most advanced medical training available in any Fire Department in Tipton County. Equipment purchases for the new Department have been made and equipment continues to arrive daily - including the medical equipment and supplies that will be used on most calls for service fielded by the AFD. Atoka's new Engine 1 arrived in town last week and is undergoing final outfitting this week - expected to return for Rock the Block and then enter regular service in early July.
The Atoka Fire Department began shift operations on June 27, 2015 - with B Shift reporting for duty on the first shift of the new Atoka Fire Department in advance of the July 1 formal start of the Department. Shift B, under the command of Lt. Bill Clark, ran calls and operated out of the Walker Parkway fire station for their first 24 hour shift – being replaced on Sunday morning at 7 am by Shift C under the command of Lt. Bill Scott. On July 1, 2015, the Atoka Fire Department begins full operations and takes over fire protection in Atoka.
A. The Town is making excellent progress on preparing for the new Atoka Fire Department. Chief Posey came on board last fall and we recently completed interviews to fill the final three (3) command staff positions. We expect to have announcements to make on those positions in mid-February. On February 10, the Board formalized an order for a new fire engine for the Atoka fleet. Investing nearly $400,000 in the engine, the Town will take delivery in June and expects the new engine to be serving the people and places of Atoka into the 2040s. Equipment decisions and purchases will occur in the coming months as will finalization of department procedures and guidelines. The AFD takes over fire protection duties in Atoka on July 1.
Q. When will the Atoka Fire Department begin hiring to fill the rest of the positions planned for the Department ? Added February 12, 2015
A. We expect to announce the three (3) Lieutenants hired to help form and manage the Atoka Fire Department in mid-February. In March, the Board will consider job descriptions for the firefighter / EMT positions needed to complete the departmental staffing. All positions will require both Firefighter I / II and EMT certification for hire. Once approved, the recruitment will be posted with the job posting window likely running through the end of the month of March. Application evaluation, testing and interviews are expected to be completed in April and May with the goal of having the roster completely filled and staff on duty in June. The AFD takes over fire protection duties in Atoka on July 1.
Q. Where are we in the Fire Chief selection process ? Added October 28, 2014
A. In July, the Town posted the Fire Chief vacancy online, in various municipal recruitment publications and in local and regional newspapers. The position closed on August 8, with internal review beginning soon after that. The Town was fortunate to receive more than 60 applications from candidates in 29 different states - bringing a wide range of certifications and work experience to the process. The Atoka Public Safety Committee met on Tuesday, September 2 at 6 pm to review candidate applications and invited six (6) candidates to interview for the position. Interviews were held on Monday, September 15. On Tuesday, October 7, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen appointed Henry Posey as Atoka's first Fire Chief. Posey, an Atoka resident for the past five years, served more than 35 years with the Memphis Fire Department - retiring in 2013 at the rank of Division Chief.
Q. When will the Atoka Fire Department begin hiring to fill the rest of the positions planned for the Department ? Added, October 28, 2014
A. We anticipate recruitment of the three (3) planned command staff positions to begin after the first of the year. Job descriptions are now being developed for the positions and once approved by the Board, those positions will be posted for recruitment. We anticipate the recruitment of firefighters to begin in the early spring, with the goal of having the roster completely filled and staff on duty in June. The AFD takes over fire protection duties in Atoka on July 1.
ORIGINAL QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS - JUNE 24, 2014
Q. What led to the decision to create the Atoka Fire Department ?
A. After decades of contracted fire service, the Town has determined that a locally-managed, locally-controlled Fire Department to be in the best interests of Atoka going forward. We've worked for months to maintain a partnership with the City of Munford because we believe that to be the most cost-effective to provide for fire protection to residents of both communities.
We were informed in early June that Munford did not believe that the command structure being negotiated for the joint Fire Department adequately recognized their decades of leadership in the Department and that separate Fire Departments may be the best way forward. The Town could not, in good faith to our citizens, commit significantly more money to a partnership where we would be the major funding partner but would not be the managing partner. On June 24, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to terminate our contract for fire services with the City of Munford effective June 30, 2015.
Q. What is the immediate impact to fire protection in Atoka ?
A. Nothing will change in the immediate future. The staffing plan for the Walker Parkway fire station remains in place and fire protection services will continue to be provided under the existing contract for fire services. Rest assured, when you call for emergency fire or medical assistance, the partnership that has provided that protection for the past several decades will be there to answer the call.
In the next several weeks, the Town will begin the recruitment process for our first Fire Chief. While we've had great advisers thus far guiding our efforts, a dedicated, full-time employee is needed to take our efforts to that next level.
Q. Did the Town prepare for this change ?
A. In our initial feasibility review, the Town considered two paths forward. First was a combined Department under a new structural agreement. We've worked tirelessly to devise a framework that would serve the needs of both communities in an effort to maximize our cost-effectiveness. Unfortunately, that path is no longer an option. Along with our combined Department plan, we developed a plan for a stand-alone Department as well. To use an analogy from Atoka's railroad past, we were building parallel tracks in our planning process - and we've been riding down the shared Department path. We'll now switch and move forward on the stand-alone path.
Q. Will the Atoka Fire Department be able to provide the protection level we expect ?
A. Absolutely. Our planning all along was based on the premise that we can not split up a single under-staffed and under-funded Department into two under-staffed and under-funded Departments. We have to be better at the end of this process. Our budget planning and staffing plans have all been based on the idea that we have to have more firefighters on the job to protect our citizens and that we have to provide them with the tools they need to deliver outstanding protection to our community.
Q. So on July 1, are the two Departments done with each other - never again to meet ?
A. Of course not. In two communities that are as closely tied together as ours, there is absolutely a need to cooperate and coordinate. Our Police and Public Works Departments do that today - and our Fire Departments will tomorrow. Joint training, equipment sharing, mutual automatic aid and more will all be a part of working together in the future.
Q. What's the next step ? Where do we go from here ?
A. The Town has approved a job description for a Fire Chief position and that recruitment process is now underway. Once a Chief is on board, we'll begin working through our Department structure, equipment needs, recruitment plan and more as we work towards a July 1, 2015 starting date. The hard work is just beginning - but it's important work and we look forward to putting together a solid staff team that will build an operation worthy of being called the Atoka Fire Department.