When Mehlville Fire Protection District Chief Brian Hendricks temporarily took over the position as chief six months ago, he wanted to open communication with firefighters.
“I strive to be a firefighters’ fire chief, I don’t ever want to lose sight of what they do,” he said. “I think that we’ve focused for the last six months on having an open line of communication between our firefighters and paramedics and we’ve got a lot of talented people that work for us.”
Hendricks was appointed interim chief in June when the former chief, . The fire board unanimously voted to offer Hendricks the permanent position as chief Wednesday. He said the transition has been smooth.
“The great thing about the structure that we have in place is that we have a tremendous administrative staff as well as command staff,” he said. “It’s more about just changing roles.”
Hendricks has been with the district for 13 years and was formerly the Deputy Chief Training Officer before becoming the assistant chief. He when a tornado destroyed the city in May. Hendricks and his wife Robyn have four girls that attend schools in the Parkway School District.
Hendricks said he knew enough about the position working with the former chief, and immediately started designing a three-year plan for the district.
In 2011, Hendricks oversaw construction on three of the district’s seven firehouses.
The chief said he doesn’t plan for any more capital improvements in 2012, but wants to focus on updating and reviewing the district’s operating procedures.
The procedures for paramedic calls and fires are constantly reviewed, but Hendricks said he wanted to include new advances in technology. In reviewing the procedures, he said talking to the firefighters was key.
“If you don’t listen to the people that are out there doing it, you’re destined to put policies out there that don’t really work,” he said. “We try to create an environment that our people know that they’re supported and that we’re going to support them.”
Former Deputy Chief Training Officer Dan LaFata was also promoted to assistant chief, a role he’s been in for the last six months. LaFata said one of his goals was to continue focusing on training.
The district uses a life-size doll called a SimMan to train its paramedics. The doll can be programmed to show the characteristics of almost any symptom from bleeding to seizures.
LaFata plans to reorganize the training lab and have an open house for the public to show residents how paramedics are trained when the project is done.
“We’re going to do the same thing that we’ve always done and we’re going to deliver terrific service to our taxpayers and we’re going to be fiscally responsible,” Hendricks said.