WMFR discusses new goals, vision

WMFR marine truck
WMFR is ready to roll out its new marine rescue vehicle, a two-person truck equipped with surfboards for beach rescues. - Kristin Swain | Sun

BRADENTON – West Manatee Fire Rescue leadership is ready to tackle the next five years with new goals and an updated vision for the future.

During a workshop session, Chief Tom Sousa laid out seven goals for 2018-2022, along with updated vision, mission and value statements for the district.

“It’s a road map for where we’re going to go in the next five years,” he told fire commissioners.

Setting a new statement

Sousa suggested updating the district’s guiding statements for the new five-year strategic plan.

He recommended “West Manatee Fire Rescue is committed to be a role model of public safety excellence” as the new mission statement.

“The goal is to be the best,” Sousa said.

For a new vision statement, he suggested something that encompasses the commitment of staff members. “We have become the leaders in what we do because we never lose sight of why we do it” is the suggested new vision statement.

Sousa suggested “Excellence through commitment, courage and compassion” as the new value statement.


The seven goals recommended by Sousa and Administrative Battalion Chief Ben Rigney were well-received by commissioners during the workshop with little discussion.

The first goal is to improve the district’s internal communications. Rigney said this measure is to help administration keep an open door policy with staff and the public.

The second goal is to develop efficiencies in the delivery of public safety services through collaboration and consolidation. To achieve this goal, Rigney said WMFR will work with other districts to train and learn from each other. Another segment of the goal would be to work with Manatee County Marine Rescue to expand beach rescue services when the other entity isn’t on duty. Sousa noted that in some instances, WMFR personnel is closer to the scene of a beach accident than Marine Rescue, particularly on the north end of the Island. Marine Rescue is headquartered in Bradenton Beach. WMFR is working with Manatee County to deploy a new two-person marine rescue vehicle.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge that we’re not competing with these other entities,” Fire Commissioner David Bishop said. “We’re complimenting them.”

The third suggested goal is to increase the value of services provided by the implementation of advanced life support services, also known as ALS.

The ALS implementation has been high on the district’s priority list for more than a year. Sousa said the application for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity has been submitted for approval to Manatee County. County commissioners will have to vote to approve the application before WMFR can launch the service. With non-transport ALS, WMFR firefighters can provide the same medical services as EMS without the ability to drive patients to the hospital. Full implementation of the service is expected to take three years to complete.

A fourth goal is the development of an in-house mentoring program to train staff for the next progressive role in their chosen career path.

The fifth goal is to review and revise the district’s response resource allocations to maximize efficiency. Implementation requires developing a plan with outside agencies to create a closest-unit response and an automated move-up plan to backfill stations while crews are out on calls.

Bishop said the plan may be more difficult to enact because of the politics involved, however, he agreed it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Sousa said he expects it to take at least a few years before some kind of agreement can be reached.

A sixth goal is for the district’s fire prevention staff to implement a community risk reduction plan compliant with the ISO grading system, which rates how well the district meets public safety and education standards.

The seventh goal is for district leadership to review, update and consolidate policies and procedures.

With fire commissioners’ blessing, Sousa said he would put his recommendations for the strategic plan into a more formal document to be voted on, then presented at a future public hearing for educational purposes.