Chief Keith Sanders
Chief Keith Sanders

Sandy Springs Fire Chief Keith Sanders plans to reorganize the department to eliminate part-time employees and add a dozen firefighters.

For many firefighters, the restructuring will mean promotions and more efficient teamwork, Sanders said.

Sanders, who took over the department in October, plans by October 2016 to promote staff internally and do away with part-time employees in the fire marshal’s office, he said.

Sanders said he wants to focus the department’s budget on three areas: public safety response time, community partnerships and personnel development.

“I see an opportunity to make enhancements and bring more consistency to our daily staffing with our personnel,” Sanders said.

City Manager John McDonough told members of Sandy Springs City Council that Sanders’ proposal makes creative use of existing resources, taking the $869,000 allotted for part-time employees to hire full-time staff and promote from within the department.

“I’m very pleased with the creative thinking, with the rationalization and methodology that he’s come up with,” McDonough said.

“The bottom line is, the reliability of the part-timers is becoming less and less because it’s a second job for them, and we believe moving in this direction is going to improve the quality of the service.”

Sander is asking for an increase in his budget of about 1.9 percent over last year, city Communications Director Sharon Kraun said.

In addition to funding 12 new full-time positions, Sanders wants to add six lieutenants, he said. He’ll also promote 18 people to fire apparatus engineer, which is a specialty position on an engine or ladder truck.

“We feel very comfortable with the enhancements he’s bringing, which will help improve the quality of service we’re providing today,” McDonough said.

Currently, the fire department has four ladder trucks and two fire engines.

On a daily basis, three battalion chiefs, who each supervise one of the three shifts, must coordinate schedules involving 93 full-time firefighters and 53 part-time firefighters. The part-timers usually work for another agency full-time and freelance with SSFD on their off time, Sanders said.

Sanders said the department needs a minimum of 15 firefighters on duty at any one time.

“Think of pairs of hands for the types of tasks firefighters have to do,” he said, including search and rescue type team operations.
Sanders said he also wants to implement a standardized career development program in order to credential personnel for career advancement.

“This is something I not only feel is important for our employees to be able to grow internally with the organization, but it’s also something that the Insurance Services Office looks at to make sure we have credentialed people in positions,” Sanders said.