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Commentary and Opinion Sep 1, 2015 - 1:06:42 PM

OP-ED: Norwalk Fire Department- a 10 year perspective

By Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy

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Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy reflectson my 10 year service to the City of Norwalk and the Norwalk Fire Department.

First, I am honored to have had the privilege to serve the City of Norwalk as Fire Chief. It has been an experience of a lifetime. Norwalk is a dynamic and exciting place that presented many opportunities and challenges. Personally and professionally, this made every day interesting. My sincere thank you to the community, City departments and partners who have made this journey memorable and life-changing.

I am proud of what the Fire Department has accomplished over the last ten years. I describe the Norwalk FD as a progressive and aggressive department. It would be incorrect to describe this organization as a single unit because it’s made up of 141 individuals each with unique strengths and capabilities. Together, these 141 individuals meld together into a cohesive team capable of extraordinary feats.

I am most proud of our safety record. As Chief, my first priority is to insure that every member goes home safely at the end of shift. While we suffered some serious injuries, we have made sure that our members are the best equipped and best trained. From leadership training to personal fitness programs, safety is everyone’s responsibility. The Officers have taken up the challenge to insure the safety of the Firefighters under their command. Our firefighters work selflessly to keep their brothers safe at every response.

Each division of the Department has excelled over the last ten years and I couldn’t be prouder to see this growth. Despite transitions in leadership; the Fire Marshal’s office, Maintenance, Training, Emergency Management, Administrative and Suppression divisions, have all transformed to be more responsive to the evolving needs in our public safety environment.

As a Department, we have sought opportunities to better serve the community. We have set a goal that any program or project we undertake will be of the highest caliber. Examples of this include:

Our Marine fire rescue operation which was borne out of refurbishing an old pleasure craft and upgraded with the benefit of a grant. It is better organized than any other municipal fire based marine unit on Long Island Sound.

Our Maintenance Division is a model of excellence in the Ct Fire Service. Two full time and one part time mechanics maintain a very large fleet of emergency vehicles and equipment. They have set standard for fire fleet maintenance.

The suppression division, the most visible part of the department, makes public safety their daily responsibility. Our firefighters work in complex and dangerous environments from hellish fires to technical rescues and emotionally challenging EMS calls. Norwalk firefighters are the right mix of brave, strong, smart and compassionate.

The new headquarters building has provided great opportunities for the Department and the City. This building was collaborative effort that leaned heavily on many staff members to insure the design and functionality would a half century or beyond. We completed the headquarters on-time and under-budget. Our officers with great creativity have used the buildings training spaces to better prepare firefighters for the most challenging aspects of firefighting and rescue.

As a Division of the Fire Department, Norwalk Emergency Management Team has grown significantly through the years and serves as a model in other communities. Key members meet monthly to collaborate and support each other’s initiatives. The Team has responded effectively to major tropical storms and hurricanes, upgraded the preparedness for major community events like the Oyster festival and Boat Show, the High School graduations and the Fireworks. We developed a new School Safety Response Guide that is used in all Public schools, and several private ones, and have used the same model to develop a response guide for City buildings. This team has fostered collaboration between City departments, Public and Private Schools, the private sector and the non-profit and social service agencies. In a decade, our world and threats have changed and we have adapted our planning to meet these changes. The resiliency of the community depends on and benefits from these strong bonds between these groups.

Many challenges have been overcome through the years and more will be faced in the future. I am confident that the department will meet those challenges and will exceed expectations. While many critical projects are already in progress and more are in their early stages, I am confident my leadership team will work together to bring these to completion and create an even stronger Department in the years ahead. A strong team will not suffer the loss of one member, even the Chief. I am proud of the legacy and department I am leaving behind and look forward to the journey ahead.

Chief Denis McCarthy

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