Dear Residents of Surprise,
As your City Manager and a retired law enforcement officer with 40 years of experience, I can assure you that public safety is and always has been the top priority for the City of Surprise, not only for me personally, but for the entire City Council and all sworn and non-sworn city employees that have the honor to serve you at all levels.
Unfortunately, there have been some inaccurate statements in the media and social media on behalf of the Surprise Fire Fighters Association (SFFA) that suggest our city is not committed to safety. These statements even led some residents to believe that Station 305 was being shut down—nothing could be further from the truth! An additional full-time unit, referred to as a Low Acuity or LA unit, comprised of a sworn Firefighter Paramedic and a sworn EMT, was put into service at Station 305 on September 9, 2019, on a 24/7 basis, to complement the Ladder truck that has been permanently stationed there for years.
It’s important to note that Engine 305, which has been referred to by the Fire Association in recent communications with the public, was only added to Station 305 as a backup Engine over the past two years to handle an uptick in calls that had been identified by the Fire Chief and his staff. Further, it should be noted that Engine 305 was only in service 40 hours per week during those two years compared to the LA unit which, as mentioned earlier, is a full-time unit.
The LA Unit can respond to a wide variety of calls for service. It is also equipped to respond to fire calls as an additional resource if needed. When considering that just over 75% of all Surprise-Fire Medical Department calls are medical in nature, and that just 1-2 % of all calls are fire related, the viability of an LA unit becomes apparent. To put this in perspective, in 2018, within Fire Station 305’s service area, there were 4,206 total calls. Approximately 1% of them were coded as fire-related calls, ranging from a home fire, to a trash fire or small grass fire. The LA Unit is well suited to address the nature and volume of calls emanating from 305’s service area and additionally it will free up the larger fire suppression vehicles for other high priority emergency calls.
Surprise is not alone in this approach—many other cities, including those across the Phoenix Metropolitan area, have used the LA units for several years with great success.
It should also be noted that the backup Engine that assisted with calls in the 305 service area over the past two years is still available to replace other Engines when they are out of service for repair or maintenance, and can be utilized for other needs as determined by the Fire Chief as staffing permits.
A recent internal review comparing 10 other Valley communities placed Surprise well in line in the number of sworn firefighters per 1,000 residents. Surprise currently has 0.94 sworn firefighters per 1,000 residents. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) indicates that in communities of our size (100,000 – 249,000) in the Western United States, there are on average 0.98 fire fighters per 1,000 residents. Our current population is approximately 138,000, putting us in line with NFPA’s regional staffing numbers.
Public Safety accounts for 47% of the city’s general fund operating budget. Our most recent FY2020 Council-approved budget brings 18 new public safety positions, 12 of which are Fire-Medical positions.
Our current budget also adds $12.6 million of capital and asset replacement funding for the Fire-Medical Department. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include you- the voters of Surprise- in how you have played a critical role in making sure Surprise remains one of the safest cities in the country. You passed the General Obligation Bond in 2017 that allows us to build two fire stations and a combined Fire/Police Readiness Center, among other projects. We recently broke ground on Fire Station 304 in the northern part of our city and next year we begin construction on Fire Station 308 in the southeast section of our city. Upon completion Fire Station 308 will pick up some of FS305’s current calls. This will support lower response times in this area. We are also buying land in the southwest part of our city to serve as a future site of another fire station and police substation.
Also of great significance to our community, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the exemplary work of our Surprise Fire-Medical and Water Resource Management departments for our city being recently rated as a Class 1 Insurance Services Office (ISO) community. That is the premiere rating issued by the ISO, demonstrating how well we are able to respond to emergencies in a timely manner and have an assured water supply to assist in fire suppression. Such a designation will also result in lower insurance premiums for some residents.
Surprise Fire-Medical is also going through the important Commission on Fire Accreditation International process to further expand our culture of public safety excellence.
The Fire-Medical leadership team and City Management are always willing to discuss issues of concern with anyone as related to our city’s commitment to Fire-Medical. Please see the joint editorial provided by myself and Fire-Medical Chief Tom Abbott in the September 11, 2019 issue of the Surprise Independent.
As your City Manager, I must balance the public safety needs of our entire community- ensuring appropriate response times and staffing for police and fire-medical; but I must also maintain a budget that keeps our roads in good condition and our drinking water safe.
If you have any questions, please reach out to me at Michael.Frazier@surpriseaz.gov or 623.222.1022.
City Manager, Surprise
View Fire-Medical Statistics 2019