Located just 15 miles outside of New York City, the West Orange Fire Department has been serving the township since 1894. The department is a full service, career department with five stations and 88 members.
A 22-year veteran with the West Orange Fire Department (WOFD), Chief Anthony Vecchio has struggled with the department’s polices since he was a deputy chief. “My predecessor tried to revamp the entire policy manual, but it was just too arduous of a task for him to do on his own,” he says. “When I was a deputy, he tried to give some of it to us, and we each wrote a handful, but it was still just too much. It was overwhelming. So, when I became chief, that was my first order of business.”
Without updated policies and procedures, Chief Vecchio was concerned about how he could effectively lead the department. “My theory is, if your personnel don’t know what rules to follow, you have anarchy,” he says. “One of my biggest concerns was, how do we structure the department and our policies and procedures? Getting into the legal aspects of it, I got very concerned about trying to do it without professional help.”
In search of guidance to develop policies that would create a foundation for the department’s operations, Chief Vecchio attended a policy-writing class led by Deputy Assistant Chief (Ret.) Curt Varone, where he was introduced to Lexipol. “The class covered everything about how you should be writing policies,” he says. “We were then put in touch with someone from Lexipol the following week.”
After learning more about Lexipol’s Fire Policies and Procedures, Chief Vecchio felt confident this was the best solution to address WOFD’s policy challenges. “I don’t know that there is another company that does what Lexipol does. There are companies that provide a storage platform or companies that provide consulting services, but with Lexipol, policies are written, reviewed and updated all within a storage platform,” he says.
While Lexipol’s Fire Policies are state-specific, WOFD decided to utilize Lexipol’s Implementation Services to further customize some of the new policies to meet their specific needs. “As great as Lexipol is with their policies and how they reference statue, OSHA regulations and federal regulations, we still needed to add our local flare to the policies,” he says. “It was a lot of work and took time as we were learning how to navigate Lexipol. Having the implementation service was very helpful.”
With Lexipol, WOFD now has up-to-date policies to guide the department and its firefighters. “The regular policy updates from Lexipol are very helpful,” Chief Vecchio says. “I don’t have to accept them if they’re updates that I don’t feel should be incorporated, but I know if I do, the changes are fully vetted by Lexipol’s legal and policy development teams.” Chief Vecchio notes this is especially helpful in keeping up with legislative and case law changes.
Through Lexipol’s online platform, WOFD has access to instantly review policy changes. “With Lexipol, we can make a change and reissue it the same day,” he says. “When we change a policy, everyone has to sign and acknowledge it. The ability to do that in real-time is excellent.”
With instant distribution of policies, WOFD can now provide their firefighters with the guidance they need. “While some of the new policies contain content that doesn’t always make our personnel happy, at least they know that’s what the policy is, as opposed to previous uncertainty,” Chief Vecchio says.
Chief Vecchio’s mission to build a foundation for consistent, safe operations through policy was achieved with Lexipol. “We wanted to set parameters. With Lexipol, we’ve accomplished that with everything—behavior, productivity, operations and more,” he says. “I believe people want to follow rules, but they don’t want to follow ambiguous rules. Making definitive policies helps everybody know and understand what their jobs are and what the expectations of the department are. Now our policies set that level of expectation.”