firemen carrying a ladder

Mountain View Fire Rescue: Safest District of 2020

In 2020, members were saddled with an almost insurmountable mission. They were tasked with continuing their operations while adhering to safety guidelines during a year in which Colorado saw the largest wildfire in state history and heavy storms in the Front Range, not to mention a pandemic.

So when it came time to select 2020’s Safest District of the Year, we had our work cut out for us sifting through all the great accomplishments our members have worked to achieve throughout the year. In the end, the 2020 award went to Mountain View Fire Rescue for their front line work, commitment to safety, and dedication.

Training for All

Operating out of Longmont, Mountain View Fire is a full service fire department providing fire and emergency medical services for the communities of Dacono, Erie, Mead, Niwot, and unincorporated areas of Boulder and Weld counties. With a line staff that includes firefighters, EMTs, and paramedics, they are prepared to protect lives, property, and the environment from fires, emergency incidents, and disasters with a variety of tactics.

Mountain View Fire also has a fully operational and self-sufficient administrative staff comprised of finance specialists, payroll, human resources, building maintenance, and other personnel tasked with operational oversight. It’s these two halves that comprise the whole of Mountain View Fire and make them a successful district. Although these two departments, so to speak, perform completely different yet uniquely important tasks, there is a lot of training that overlaps between the two sides. Fire Chief Dave Beebe is in charge of ensuring this happens.

“One of the things we did over the past few years,” Beebe said, “is training that affects everyone, not just line staff, but for admin staff.”

Each staff member—including administrative staff—has to be aware of HIPAA, ergonomics, lifting techniques, and driver training. These are just a few of the areas marked for training that all personnel will encounter on the job, although the degree of training will vary. While training is an important tenet at any district, Mountain View ensures that everyone receives the necessary training to stay safe at their jobs.

“What we’ve tried to do is give employees a say in how we deal with risk and what risks we deal with,” Beebe said.

They try to incorporate trainings in a way that allows the entire staff to be present for them at once, as a group, and to benefit from them as a team. For this approach to be the success that it is, both the leadership as well as the entire staff at Mountain View come up with safety trainings that serve more than just their emergency response staff.

“Training is ingrained in the service. We train constantly, such as how to perform on emergency scenes,” Beebe said.

As with any profession, there are inherent risks associated with job performance. And Mountain View is no different. To see them for what they are, the district employs the use of a safety committee to come up with district-wide solutions for the challenges they face.

“The best ideas come from the ground up,” Beebe said.

COVID and the Community

This year, COVID-19 has produced a number of challenges to Mountain View’s operations, especially their training and working arrangements.

“For line guys, prior to COVID[-19], we would bring crews together from different fire stations to train,” Beebe said.

However, that is no longer the case. Instead, the department has turned to learning through web-based applications and digital training environments, allowing district management to minimize contact and reduce potential spread at their district and in their community. As for the administrative staff, they are offered the ability to work from home, or practice social distancing within their offices, which, fortunately, are spread out in accordance to CDC guidelines to allow for this. Nonetheless, this year has been significantly different from all prior years.

“Our community outreach has suffered. We are struggling and trying to find methods to stay connected to the community.”

To work on this problem, Mountain View utilizes their full-time community outreach coordinator. This position oversees the coordination of district and community outreach, putting on sessions such as general CPR classes, first aid classes, and a kids’ academy, which is a mini fire academy. This consists of taking kids out to the drill ground and letting them work hoses, play with ladders, and perform a lot of the tasks that firefighters do. They also put on a class for pet CPR last year and are always coming up with new and interesting ways to engage with the community. And although this year is not what was expected, they continue onward.

“We’re looking forward to getting back to some semblance of normalcy,” Beebe said.

Nevertheless, Mountain View has worked to mitigate the effects the pandemic has had on their routine operations.

Those adaptations have been critical for the district, especially on medical calls where there is an emphasis on wearing personal protective equipment and strictly adhering to biohazard protocols.

“The biggest change now is getting good information from dispatch from callers.”

One of the things that Mountain View has modified due to the pandemic is the number of personnel that make contact with the caller. Typically, they send out two people with an ambulance and three firefighters with a fire engine; now, the number of personnel hasn’t changed, but the number of people that interact with the point of contact has.

“One thing we do now is, depending on [the] call, we try not to put as many people in contact with the patient; one person might make contact with the patient before they bring additional people in.”

This method is about finding the balance between the safety of staff and patients as well as not compromising service, which is all achieved through additional assessment ahead of time. Their focus is on being smarter and more methodical about how many people they put in contact with the patient.

“It’s for the benefit of the patient,” Beebe said.

The Community Within

Mountain View also makes sure to focus on the community within their own organization, and that means focusing on risk management and the safety of their own employees.

Mountain View has made impressive strides over the past few years, working to reduce their number of overall claims. For the crew at Mountain View, the driver of their success was doing what they could up front in order to keep their staff out of the Workers’ Compensation process, a challenge that is easier said than done.

“The goal is to keep as many people as healthy and on the job; and carry that across the line for all employees, regardless of their position in the organization,” Beebe said.

For Mountain View, one great tool has been the use of learning management system TargetSolutions, which has helped the district train and certify their employees on a wide number of subjects and safety topics.

“[It was] transformational as far as tracking and assigning trainings to people across the organization. Every day we find new ways to use it. It has been accepted well and allowed us to get the content out accurately, track it, and make efficient use of time,” Beebe said.

In addition, Mountain View recently brought in a fitness trainer for socially distanced fitness classes. Originally, the administrative staff approached Beebe and asked for a fitness trainer to come in three days a week. When Beebe saw the utility of it, he expanded the program so it was available for the entire staff.

“Stress is high with what’s going on. It’s very beneficial for every member of the organization to have these outlets,” Beebe said. “It’s great for the organization to have healthier people.”

Mountain View also has a strong mental health program that is grounded by robust peer support. Aware of the fact that first responders nationwide are at an elevated risk for mental health disorders, PTSD, and suicide, the district has worked to secure a strong network of support, people who are trained and mentored by mental health professionals that provide access and support for the district.

“I’m a personal believer in fitness and mental wellbeing,” Beebe said. “Having healthy people, both physically and mentally, benefits all.”

Mountain View works with a program called Building Warriors to educate and train staff members at the district and other organizations to become peer support professionals. The program puts them through special training to be able to meet standards and provide support to frontline workers. It is a great support system that extends beyond the walls of Mountain View.

If a staff member is struggling with their mental health, they can either go to their designated peer support professional within the district, or if privacy is a concern, they can reach out to other organizations locally that have similarly trained professionals; these are all linked up with Mountain View so it works as a two-way street.

“We provide funding and provide the support; but it’s driven from the ground up,” Beebe said. “It’s been very successful. We provide it to everyone.”

On the Horizon

Over the next year, Mountain View is in the process of incorporating another fire district into theirs, leaving their mission statement in a state of flux at the moment. As they grow they need the visions and missions of both organizations to align with one another. But that doesn’t mean anything radical will change.

“The words change, but we value the service we provide; we take care of employees, encourage a culture of openness and inclusion, provide great service, and make sure people are happy and excited to come to work,” Beebe said.

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