By Kevin Kelley
Tony Raffin, sworn in Thursday as the city’s new fire chief, has strong connections to the community. He’s been a member of the city’s fire department for 15 years. His wife, Dawn, grew up in Fairview Park, and the couple has lived in the city for 14 years. His grandparents and parents ran the old Santos Italian Restaurant for years at Fairview Centre. And his brother Dominic owns Dominic’s Santos Italian Restaurant on Lorain Road.
Raffin said he wants the department he commands to be visible in the community and responsive to its needs when it comes to public safety and emergency services.
His predecessor, Bud Williams, who retired last week after serving as chief for three years, left the department in a strong position, Raffin said. But the new chief said he isn’t interested in just maintaining the status quo.
“You have to have the vision of going in the best direction possible for your department and your community,” he told West Life.
Raffin said any changes or initiatives will be driven by the needs of the community.
One project Raffin is working on is creating awareness in Fairview Park of Cuyahoga County’s new mass notification system, Ready Notify, which became operational in March. The system can issue emergency notifications, such as the need to boil drinking water, to residents, either across the entire county or in a specific community. Ready Notify can deliver messages to residents and businesses by telephone, cellphone, text message or e-mail.
Residents can sign up for the service at www.ready.cuyahogacounty.us/.
Ready Notify is similar to the Nixle Connect service, which Fairview Park began utilizing two years ago. Raffin said Fairview Park will use both Nixle and Ready Notify to alert residents to emergencies.
One growing need Raffin anticipates is an increase in the number of calls for emergency medical services as baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, grow older.
Ambulance calls easily made up the majority of the Fairview Park Fire Department’s calls in 2013. Of the 1,917 calls received, 1,540 were for emergency medical services, Raffin said. The other 327 were for fire or other emergencies or incidents.
But calls that fall under the “other” category, which range from a resident smelling gas to a cat stuck in a tree, have also been increasing, the new chief noted.
“People don’t know who else to call,” he said of those duties.
A desire to help people in trouble led Raffin to become a firefighter-paramedic.
At Capital University in Columbus, he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and worked for five years as an accountant before deciding to change careers.
“Just helping other people, fixing people’s problems” was the motivation for becoming a firefighter, he said.
Raffin earned state certification as a fire service instructor, emergency medical services instructor and fire safety inspector. He also attended training at the National Fire Academy in Maryland.
The cities of Fairview Park, Bay Village, Westlake and Rocky River are currently studying the possibility of forming a regional fire district. A $100,000 Ohio Local Government Innovation Fund grant awarded last year will pay for a project manager who will lead the next steps in the process.
Raffin said he thinks the hiring of a project manager makes sense.
“I think they’re going about it the right way,” he said of the process.