Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the March 30, 2017 print edition of The Times-Sentinel. To see stories like this sooner, subscribe for home delivery. Call 316-540-0500.
By Sam Jack
CLEARWATER – Last month, Scott Cooper was appointed Clearwater’s first-ever emergency services director, combining the roles of fire chief and EMS director into one full-time position.
He has been on the job for several weeks now and says he is enjoying the opportunity to work with a dedicated corps of volunteers that serve the two emergency departments.
“I think we’re all on the same page when it comes to providing the best service to citizens for the cheapest price,” he said. “We’re all working toward bettering our organization so that when that need for service comes, we’re the best we can be.”
Cooper has more than 30 years of public safety experience, including stints in New York, Texas, Florida, Kansas and, most recently, Tennessee. He holds multiple certifications in both the firefighting and paramedical fields.
Having him on as a full-time employee will help both fire and EMS deal with a chronic shortage of staff during daytime business hours, when many volunteers are unavailable due to work. He will respond to all daytime requests for service, whether on the fire or EMS side, he said.
Cooper said another part of his role is to take the administrative burden off volunteer shoulders so that volunteers can focus on delivering services to their neighbors.
“Something I’m actively working on is recruitment and retention for the volunteers,” he said. “I think the volunteer-based (services) in Clearwater are essential. Ever since the beginning of the department in 1903, it’s been volunteer-based.”
Cooper invited the public to visit the fire department building, 305 W. Ross Ave., at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 1, to watch volunteer firefighters practice using self-contained breathing apparatuses. A trailer from KU will be on site to facilitate the exercises.
“We have to be confident in our skills as far as wearing airpacks, negotiating tight spaces and different types of obstacles,” Cooper said. “That’s what is in the trailer. We’ll run everybody through it, see how they perform, and if there’s any weaknesses we need to address.”
The April 1 event would also be a good time for prospective volunteers to learn more about the emergency departments and meet current members, Cooper said. He urged people to consider volunteering.
“We’re looking for eager people to join us in our civic pride,” he said. “When the time comes to help out your neighbors, you don’t want to be the one standing on the sidelines; you want to be in there helping.”
Those with questions for Cooper can call him at 620-584-2816. In an emergency, always call 911.