Located in northwestern Ohio, Napoleon Fire and Rescue Department is a combination, full-service department with 10 career firefighters and 32 volunteers. The department serves just under 12,000 people across 53 square miles.
When Chief Clayton O’Brien took over as chief in April 2015, the Napoleon Fire and Rescue Department (NFRD) had no written policies and procedures in place. “I felt that getting policies in place was one of the very first tasks I needed to complete, because of the liability to the city and the staff members,” Chief O’Brien says.
The lack of policies wasn’t just a legal liability, however. It also affected other aspects of the department’s operations – and staff morale. “I went from being on the line to the fire chief, so I knew what the issues were,” Chief O’Brien says. “At the end of the day, the staff want to have expectations, they want to know what they’re shooting for. I have career, part-time and on-call part-time firefighters. Trying to get them all on the same page was difficult, and without policy, there was nothing to hold us accountable.”
Implementing Lexipol allowed Chief O’Brien to address the dual challenges of lack of policies and the need for better department-wide communication and accountability.
In just six months, he had reviewed and issued to department members the 150+ policies in Lexipol’s Ohio Fire Policy Manual. This laid the foundation for bringing the department in line with best practices. “When customizing the policies for Napoleon, I didn’t want to change the policy, I wanted to change the way were doing things toward the policy,” O’Brien says. “The Lexipol employees have already done the work to develop a best practice manual. If we’re doing something different, we better have a good reason.”
Chief O’Brien also used the Lexipol system to integrate the NFRD’s procedures manual. “One of the biggest benefits is that you can use the Lexipol template and have your policies cross-referenced to your guidelines,” he says. “For example, we have a policy about accountability that says the incident commander must account for all members on the fireground. The guideline says how we do that. And the policies are hyperlinked to the guidelines, which is a huge benefit because when members are looking at the policy on their phones, they can click through to the guideline, or vice versa.”
Lexipol has helped Chief O’Brien instill a culture of consistency, fairness and accountability to high standards. “I’m not doing this just because I want to be a policy-heavy fire department, or because I want things done a certain way,” he says. “It’s because this is the best thing for our members. These are things that are required by law or are accepted best practices.”
That effect has carried through to other areas of the department, including training. “Before Lexipol, our training program was willy-nilly; not a lot got done,” Chief O’Brien says. “Now, the policy sets the stage for the training. Having the policies in place creates a clear expectation of what’s expected of the members. I’m not changing the rules based on the individuals involved – and the members see that. We all operate under the same policy.”
Like many new chiefs, Chief O’Brien entered his role with some big goals. Lexipol has helped him build a foundation to achieve them. “Lexipol has been one of my biggest victories in initiating change throughout the department,” he says.