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Department Success Stories

Fire and rescue departments who have previously assessed with FOCUS have used their data to advocate for additional staff, gear, apparatus, legislation, and mental health. Learn more about their FOCUS success stories!

Chief Mike Stanley - Oshkosh Fire Department, WI

"We were awarded funding from the Oshkosh Area United Way to bring a trainer from the ResponderStrong organization to spend a day working with our Peer Support Team and then three days of training our entire staff on ways they can deal with stress, become more resilient, recognize risk factors, and several other mental health topics. We presented the results of our FOCUS survey to them and the validity data from the survey made a very compelling case that led to the funding."

Chief Stephen Trenholm - Essex Fire Department, VT

On November 15th, 2020, FIRST Visited Essex Fire Department in Vermont to present department membership their data from the COVID-19 RAPID Mental Health Assessment (RAPID), which includes FOCUS metrics related to organizational outcomes and safety outcomes plus mental health outcomes that measure risk for anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. During our visit, Essex RAPID champion, Chief Stephen Trenholm, spoke alongside Dr. Taylor about the findings from Essex's RAPID report to local news outlet WCAX3.

In addition to visiting with Essex Fire Department, FIRST met with members of the Essex town council, including the department and assistant managers and the human resources director. We also met with Chief Dan Lynch of the Vermont Fire Academy, who worked with the Vermont State Legislature on bill S.42. With its passage in May of 2021, this bill establishes the Emergency Service Provider Wellness Commission in support of first responder health and well-being, including mental health. Chief Lynch used RAPID data from Essex Fire Department to directly inform this bill.

FOCUS 3.0 includes all metrics featured on the RAPID assessment, including those that measure the behavioral health of your department's membership. The time and effort departments like Essex put into collecting this important data is being used to push for evidence-based policy changes aimed at improving the mental health of our nation's first responders.

Special Operations Chief Scott Sellers - DeKalb County Fire Rescue, GA

Health & Safety Officer Chris Cavender - DeKalb County Fire Rescue, GA

"Our Safety Committee and I were tasked to research the Clean Cab Concept and see if we would adopt the concept on our trucks. At the conclusion of our research and colorful debate with the Safety Committee, we reached an agreement that DCFR should move toward the Clean Cab Concept to reduce exposures to cancer-causing carcinogens. But, the decision to go Clean Cab ultimately lied with the Deputy Chief of Operations who was still on the fence to change. I asked him to wait until Chief Sellers and I presented the FOCUS Survey to make a final decision on whether to go clean cab or not. He decided to wait.

Long story short, after the FOCUS survey presentation, the entire executive staff was behind it and voted to go with the Clean Cab Concept on the next five engine purchases. This was huge--as you know, firemen don't like change! I believe this was due to the fact that they understood the concepts behind the management commitment to safety."

Captain Robert Borse - Dallas Fire-Rescue, TX

Chief Dennis B. Light - Prescott Fire Department, AZ

"Coming on the heels of the greatest loss of Wildland Firefighters in recent history, Prescott has worked towards the necessary cultural change to minimize the changes of any future loss of life. Such loss presented an opportunity to capitalize on enhanced awareness for our members. Firefighter wellness has for many years been at the forefront of Prescott leadership and is considered to be fully inclusive of firefighter physical and mental well-being. The FOCUS survey provided myself as the Fire Chief a very solid baseline from which to seek process or other incremental improvements in our employee's overall wellness. The added focus demonstrates a top-down, bottom-up approach towards doing the right things to shift a culture regardless of generational differences. We fully support the continuing efforts being undertaken and hope that funding will continue for the immediate and long-term future to benefit firefighters everywhere."

Assistant Chief Vince Turner - South Metro Fire Rescue Authority, CO

"I believe this is a good baseline survey. It gives us a point to continue communications on what our safety culture is, where we want it to be, and to chart a path for improvement.

Overall, the information contained within our report is thought-provoking. Understanding how our firefighters perceive our culture of safety is critical in determining where improvements can be made and communications can be increased."

Chief of Safety Humberto J. Quintela - Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, FL

"I appreciate the data and I think it is a great evaluation of the state of safety within our department. It is a great tool to evaluate what was being done and what we need to do to ensure our personnel's safety and well-being. There is great value in the metrics provided in the results of the study because it can help more accurately focus some aspects of the safety component that might be missing. I definitely have new insight as to specific areas or stations that provided some very insightful information which will be invaluable to provide future focus."

Chief Jayme Kahle - Rincon Valley Fire District, AZ

"I think the FOCUS results provided some very positive news for us. It is always great to get third party information about your organization from an unbiased agency. the metrics show that we have a decent safety culture and it shows the gap between management and supervision which is important from an information exchange perspective. I did like the benchmark ranking between other agencies to provide perspective.

This was the first time we had this data. I have been relying on my e-mod rate coming from my workers' compensation carrier that rates our rolling three-year accident history. The data itself with the rankings was great to know where we measure compared to other similar sized agencies. I think the results confirmed what I knew anecdotally, but now I have concrete, objective proof. I have something that I can bring to my governing board."

Chief Briad Schaeffer - Spokane Fire Department, WA

"FOCUS is extremely beneficial from a planning perspective. It shows a great baseline for our previous workforce, deployment, and leadership. Some of the information I had a gut feeling about, like station sentiment or morale, but others were completely a surprise. The metrics are a great way for me to identify our performance and explain it to others.

I hope it's understood how much I am thankful for the amount of time FIRST has put forth not just for us, but for the entire fire service. We are very appreciative for the insight, and as a chief, the data gives me a goal to shoot for and a way to measure it."

Captain Brian J. Monahan - Duxbury Fire Department, MA

"We are in the middle of some big personnel changes. Our plan is to administer the FOCUS survey again in a year's time, while sharing the current results. This gives us the time during our transition to improve. It also shows the new members coming in that safe practices in everything we do is first and foremost."

Chief Chad A. Russell - Andover Fire Rescue, KS

"AFR was affected by the FOCUS survey quite profoundly. To demonstrate our renewed focus on safety, we have two members at the National Fire Academy taking a course titled, Safety Program Operations. This is the same course I attended last year after being involved in the FOCUS project.

We have a renewed sense of what safety is and what it actually looks like. We have established a new position of shift safety officer. This project is not an on-scene safety officer position (we already had those), rather, they are to provide a safety briefing in the first hour of every shift and review one NIOSH LODD report every two weeks. The program has been so impactful that we are finding needed changes to SOGs and other policy during our LODD reviews. Those reviews are also driving training requests from the floor firefighters to our training officers.

Lastly, the data we gained and survey results you gave us have been shared many times over with elected officials, city admin, and even citizens. There have been quite a few very powerful conversations about firefighter safety that would not have happened without our involvement in FOCUS."

Battalion Chief Edward H. Conejo - Rincon Valley Fire District, AZ

"Two of our members attended your FOCUS Culture Camp, once in Scottsdale and the other in San Diego. The information and resources that have helped us the most has been the Additional Resources at the end of the take-home binders, particularly the piece on Situational Pressures that Influence Firefighters' Decision Making about Personal Protective Equipment: A Qualitative Analysis. This work has helped our department address a trending exposure issue in which crew members were not donning all the appropriate and available EMS PPE. I am assured that we will continue to improve our operations and safety culture using the data and resources you all have provided."

Battalion Chief Jeffrey S. Hooker - Honolulu Fire Department, HI

"I identified our first post-FOCUS 'intervention' item--department physicals. Our annual physicals have been so watered down that they are frankly of little use. I had my physical today and asked the City Doctor if he thought we would ever go back to providing blood draws to test for things like cholesterol levels. He said it was unlikely. I thought that was a shame, because chances are pretty good that I won't die because I got shorter, can't see or hear as well as last year, or even maybe gained a pound or two. But the one test that could potentially shed some light on a truly life-threatening issue (e.g., heart attack risk) is not checked.

My push will be for HFD Management to mandate a simple cholesterol test at its expense, for all uniformed and civilian employees. That's Management Commitment to safety and health!"

Captain/Health & Safety Officer Craig J. Deal - Albuquerque Fire Rescue, NM

"When we did the first survey in 2018, we had a very difficult labor-management relationship, which definitely overshadowed anything else in the minds of our firefighters.

Since the first FOCUS survey, we have had a change to administration (new mayor) and that definitely has reflected in the second survey's increase in confidence of management. Also, with the new and current administration, we started to work on educating our firefighters on tracking their fire calls foe exposures and continuing our education with them on causes of cancer in the fire service. We have also instituted a Post Fire Gross Decon policy and increased our Bunker Gear Exchange policy. Hood Exchange has been revamped along with replacing our hoods with ones that have a barrier. The new administration also spending more time and effort communicating with the entire department on all items that impact our firefighters. They get safety-related notifications frequently and know that they communications line with administration and safety are open all the time.

Some increases in the survey may just be due to the change in administration, but I am hopeful what we have done with the above also has had an impact."

Division Chief Darrel Kohls - Wichita Fire Department, KS

"The FOCUS data is extremely important. The breakdown at the station level is most beneficial. It gives us a starting point to begin building on the positives. We are also very interested in trying to figure out the factors driving down the scores at our two busiest station. There were many new insights in which we did not predict the outcomes.

We are impressed by the data we received from the survey. It is a validated framework we can use to tackle safety issues within our department. We are planning to attend a Culture Camp to further unpack our results and learn from other departments throughout the nation to implement best practices to make our department safer for our members."

Assistant Chief Mike Buchanan - Olympia Fire Department, WA

"We continue to appreciate the support of the FIRST team. You have assisted us through two FOCUS surveys, one Culture Camp, and provided us with consultation as we established our department's Safety Health and Wellness Team (SHW). SHW serves as our department's safety committee as well as promoting health and wellness of our members."