John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
First Responders Category

Newtown Seeks to Hire FireFighter

Want to join a fantastic team? The Emergency Services Department is looking for a progressive, driven, and professional individual to join the crew. Great salary and benefits working in a fantastic community! Applications will be accepted until April 3rd.

$63,981 Starting Salary, plus Excellent Benefits!

Posted on 01 Mar 2019, 10:01 - Category: First Responders

Meet Newtown Township's New Police Chief

John L. Hearn

At the February 27, 2019, Board of Supervisors meeting, John L. Hearn, the Commanding Officer of Philadelphia Police Department's 14th Police District, was sworn in as Newtown Township's new Chief of Police by  District Court Judge Mick Petrucci.

The 14th District in Northwest Philadelphia covers the Chestnut Hill and Germantown sections, as well as East and West Mt. Airy.

Hearn was selected by the Supervisors after an exhaustive process that involved screening over 20 applicants. In my review I noted the following about Hearn:

  1. He has experience preparing budgets for special events
  2. He takes an analytical approach to making decisions based on facts
  3. He believes technology can minimize the cost of training
  4. In his previous position he assigned officers “areas of influence” where they are required to knock on doors and visit businesses and introduce themselves
  5. He held special “traffic safety blitzes” and emphasized education vs. tickets
  6. He implemented a “walking with a cop” program
  7. He held monthly town halls with citizens

Of particular interest to me are items #6 and #7 on this list. I hope to chat with Chief Hearns in the near future to learn more about implementing these "community policing" programs in Newtown!

SafeCity Solutions - a consulting company - was hired by Newtown to help evaluate applicants. Their final report noted that Hearn's "experience has provided him with the tools to effectively respond to a myriad of difficult and complex situations in a reasonable time frame... Not all what Hearn experienced in a large city would be applicable to Newtown, but indications are that he could make the transition and adjustment necessary to be a successful suburban police chief."

Hearn has a large number of friends in local area police departments as well as in the FBI where he attended the National Academy. This was obvious from the large number of attendees at the swearing in ceremony.

The audience at John Hearn swearing in ceremony. The entire Newtown Police force was also in attendance but are not in this photo. They were standing behind the podium.

I look forward to working with Chief Hearn and wish him great success in his new role!

Posted on 28 Feb 2019, 01:09 - Category: First Responders

Newtown Township Releases the 2018 Fire and Emergency Services Study

In November, 2017, Newtown Township issued an RFP seeking a fire service consultant experienced in the management and operations of volunteer/combination fire departments to undertake “an organizational, effectiveness and overall efficiency study on staffing levels, facilities, apparatus needs, equipment, administration, financials pertaining to the fire service and the services of the department serving our community.”

In February, 2018, Harry R. Carter. Ph.D., L.L.C., a municipal fire protection firm headquartered in New Jersey, was approved by the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) to perform the analysis (see minutes of the February 14, 2018, BOS meeting). Dr. Harry Carter has more than 35 years’ experience as a municipal fire protection consultant. He has been a member of the fire and emergency services world since 1964.

The final Fire and Emergency Services Study was completed in December, 2018, and is currently available on the Township website here.

A Brief History of Newtown Fire Services

The Newtown Fire Association (NFA), which is a volunteer fire department, provides fire protection to both Newtown Township and Newtown Borough. In 1996 the fire association approached the township and requested assistance with the fire services coverage due to the lack of volunteers available during daytime hours. To meet that need, the township established the Newtown Emergency Services Department (NESD) to provide fire services coverage Monday through Friday from the hours of 8AM - 4:30PM.

In 2002 the Emergency Services Department expanded their hours from 6AM-6PM due to the limited availability of volunteers. That level of service continues today. NFA continues to provide coverage for the remaining hours, 6 P.M. - 6 A.M. during the week and 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday. NFA also provides for 24-hour coverage during twelve (12) holidays in which the township is closed.

Fire Study Recommendations

Dr. Carter’s study made several recommendations. The following is a list of some of the most important recommendations that pertain to the reorganization and effectiveness of Newtown’s fire services. Please refer to the full study here.

“Let me suggest that a major problem in Newtown Township involves the staffing level of your fire department,” noted Dr. Carter in the study. “I must recommend that you broaden your career staffing to cover a seven-day per week operation.”

According to Dr. Carter, many personnel in the volunteer staff  “do not recognize” the fact that that Glenn Forsythe is the chief in charge. “We did not see any organizational chart which accurately portrayed the manner in which the organization operates,” said Dr. Carter.

The report recommends that a “true combination fire department” should be created which combines Station 45 (the volunteer station on Liberty Street in the Borough) and Station 55 (the paid staff station located in the Municipal Complex at 100 Municipal Drive in the Township) under the control of the career fire chief (Glenn Forsyth).

“The existing and future [Newtown] population that can reasonably be expected to evolve may not be of a type and kind … willing to become active volunteer members of the fire department,” said Dr. Carter in his report. “This fact will at some point in the future lead your community in the direction of some form of combination of full-time career fire department in line with your paid-on-call workers in the future.”

Dr. Carter recommended getting out “in front of this issue” by forming a committee and to determine how new combination department should develop.

Meanwhile, according to the report, career staffing hours should be expanded to a seven days a week schedule. This recommendation is based upon a review of response data [in 2018, the average time for fire personnel to get the scene of a fire call ranged from 9 minutes, 50 seconds to 10 minutes, 20 seconds. The longest recorded response time was 19 minutes.]

The fire stations are poorly positioned, according to the report. “The station on Municipal Drive is poorly located with regard to the township and the borough,” said Dr. Carter. “The Borough station is also poorly located for its role in the protection of the township,” he added. The report recommends that consideration be given to developing plans for a new fire station in the area of Sycamore Street.

“It was my observation that many members of the organization do not believe their input is really desired and appreciated,” Dr. Carter noted. “It seemed to my associate and me that an insufficient number of ways exist within the fire company for the agency as a whole to communicate with its members and itself. The key to continued success … is to maintain an open and sincere line of communications between and among the officers and members of your fire department,” suggested Dr. Carter.

“During the interview process my associate and I found that many people spoke about the manner in which apparatus acquisitions were being conducted,” said Dr. Carter. The report recommended that a formal apparatus acquisitions committee be created which is responsible for working to develop the recommendations for new apparatus and equipment. This committee must have members of both the career and volunteer staffs and will serve in an advisory capacity to the career Fire Chief.

Finally, Dr. Carter recommended that all members be made aware of the nature of the financial arrangements that the fire association (and thus the new combination fire department) has with Newtown Township. He suggested that this be part of a facilitated meeting involving all members of the department. This meeting should be facilitated by someone outside of the department with a fire and EMS background who has experience in conducting such meetings. “All of the issues identified in this report could be addressed at that time,” said Dr. Carter.

Further Reading:

Posted on 29 Dec 2018, 11:27 - Category: First Responders

Northampton Resolution is a Setback for Newtown Ambulance

At the November 14, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, Evan Resnikoff, Chief of Operations of the Newtown Ambulance Squad (NAS), commented that as of September 1, 2018, NAS is no longer the primary provider of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for the East Holland section of Northampton Township after nearly 50 years of providing that service (view video below). This was the result of a 3-0 vote in August, 2018, by the Northampton supervisors to support Resolution Definition #2018-R-14 authorizing the Tri-Hampton Rescue Squad to be the primary provider of emergency medical and rescue services within the boundaries of Northampton Township.

Chief Resnikoff warned that this change could result in longer response times in the eastern end of Northampton Township, potentially putting lives at risk and opening the township to potential litigation. In addition, Chief Resnikoff noted that Newtown Ambulance stands to lose $16,000 in subscription drive revenue and $93,000 in NET billing revenue, or about 40 dispatched calls per month, of which 71% are billable calls. 

The $16,000 in subscription drive revenue came from about 378 donors. “We had an 18% rate of return last year total in all zip codes we mailed to,” noted Resnikoff. “So, I am hopeful that with lots of advertising we can at least make up the 378 within the 18940 zip code where we had a 21% rate of return for that portion of last year's mailing.”

Evan Resnikoff, Chief of Newtown Ambulance, makes a pitch for a subscription drive at the November 14, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting.

According to an August 26, 2018, article in the Bucks County Courier Times (see below), “between Jan. 1, 2012, through June 30, 2018, Tri-Hampton responded to about 10,000 calls in the township, and nearly 26,000 calls in Northampton, Lower Southampton, Upper Southampton, Bensalem and Warwick combined…Newtown Ambulance responded to only about a third as many calls in the township, about 3,000, in the same time period.

Meanwhile, “Newtown Ambulance responded to more than 13,200 calls in Newtown Township, Newtown Borough, Northampton, Upper Makefield, Lower Makefield, Wrightstown and Middletown since 2012,” according to data cited in the article.

 


 

 

Posted on 18 Nov 2018, 01:05 - Category: First Responders

The Annual NFA BBQ Picnic Was a Great Success!

I attended the annual Newtown Fire Association (NFA) BBQ picnic last night at Station 55 on Municipal Drive in Newtown Township. There was a lot of great food to be had including steak filets, which you had to BBQ yourself, smoked ribs, which were excellent, corn on the cob, watermelon, cake, and last but not least, my homemade lasagna!

 

Newtown Fire Association firemen Rick and Matt Gerhard are ready to enjoy my lasagna at the annual BBQ!

A post shared by John Mack (@johnmacknewtown) on

It was a great opportunity to meet many NFA and Newtown Emergency Services members in a social setting and learn more about them and how they decided to volunteer to serve our community. They do a lot of work to be ready when needed. To serve a meal to volunteer firefighters has long been on my bucket list. I can now scratch it off my list, but more importantly, I am happy to report that my lasagna got rave reviews!

Volunteer Firefighter Crisis

Following the BBQ, the NFA held its monthly meeting, which I also attended as a representative of the Newtown Board of Supervisors. A big item on the agend concerned recruiting new members. Regarding that, consider these sobering facts (abstracted from a PSATS OpEd):

  • Volunteers at fire companies across Pennsylvania have dropped from 300,000 strong in the 1960s and ’70s to below 50,000 today.
  • At least 75 percent of fire companies are struggling with manpower at a time when the state’s population is aging. The average age of a firefighter is 50-something, and people are busier today than they were decades ago.
  • Communities would have to raise taxes almost $10 billion a year to switch to a paid model for fire service, according to the office of the state fire commissioner. Who can afford that kind of property tax increase in their community?

Posted on 26 Jun 2018, 01:47 - Category: First Responders

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