Director of Public Safety
By Marie L. Monyak
January 06, 2006
Ketchikan, Alaska - Speaking at the Greater Ketchikan Chamber
of Commerce luncheon Wednesday, keynote speaker Rich Leipfert
announced current changes being implemented by the Department
of Public Safety. The father of three young women, Leipfert came
to Ketchikan in 1998 and has been the Director of Public Safety
since 2004, overseeing both the city Police and the Fire Departments
The key issue the Chamber of
Commerce was most interested in recently was the process developers
must now go through to receive approval of their plans through
the State. It has been felt that the process can be streamlined
by allowing local government to approve the plans. This
year's budget allowed for an additional inspector and it is hopeful
that the application process will be finished within the next
six months. Once completed, developers and architects will
be able to submit their plans locally and receive their feedback
in a timelier manner.
Blaine Ashcraft, Executive
Director of the Chamber of Commerce,
and Rich Leipfert, Director of Public Safety.
Photo by Marie L. Monyak ©2006
Leipfert next addressed the current
911 emergency phone system. "For years, we have had
an antiquated 911 system, based on technology today," Leipfert
stated. "Federal mandates throughout the years have
increased the requirements for 911 systems." Currently
all 911 calls are answered by the Police Department. If
a citizen calls in to report a fire, after relaying the information
to the dispatcher, the caller is then transferred to the Fire
Department where they must repeat the same information.
The significant upgrade to central dispatch, expected in May,
will allow them to eliminate this problem by answering and dispatching
all calls for Police, Fire and EMS. This change includes
hiring two new dispatchers who, along with the current ones,
will be required to learn the new protocol as well as receive
EMS training. The end result will be a faster response
time by the emergency services.
It should be noted that 911 calls outside of the city limits
that require the State Troopers will still be transferred to
Trooper's dispatch, as the State has their own protocol.
The Chamber members were also told of a much more subtle change
occurring within the Police Department. Leipfert said;
"Recently we sent some police supervisors and Sergeants
to Texas for training in customer service and as a result there
is a transition going on right now." "This is
a cultural change in the department where the officers will be
more customer service oriented." Leipfert was happy
to report that after a hundred years of traditional law enforcement,
the changes are progressing well.
Once the floor was opened for questions one member asked Leipfert
if all the new equipment that both the North and South Tongass
Fire Departments have purchased recently is compatible with city
equipment. The Director assured everyone that while the
vehicles may be different, the protective gear, compressor systems
are compatible. Leipfert further stated that with
the Homeland Security funds that they've received, they have
been very careful to ensure that the new equipment can be used
across the board.
Rich Leipfert, Director
of Public Safety, speaks before members of
the Chamber of Commerce Wednesday.
Photo by Marie L. Monyak ©2006
Another question that inspired a great deal of interest was posed
by Renee Schofield of Tongass Substance Screening. Citing
the recent disaster preparedness drill, Schofield wanted to know
what she, as a business owner, should tell her people to do and
where to meet, should a disaster strike. Using the examples
of a tsunami going up Carlanna, or a disaster on the cruise ship
docks during tourist season, Schofield felt the public needs
to be better informed on how to react to these situations.
Leipfert was in agreement and informed everyone that the Department
is working on two items that will address these concerns.
First, Ketchikan would be tapping into federal funds for a tsunami
warning system similar to the one used by Sitka. Secondly,
the disaster preparedness exercise scheduled for early fall of
this year will be participated in by both federal and state agencies
and will address the issue of how best to inform the public and
businesses on evacuation procedures.
Blaine Ashcraft, Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce,
asked Leipfert if he knew the number of vehicle roll-overs on
North Tongass since December 1st. Although Leipfert
didn't have the number readily available he stated that the number
of accidents on North Tongass is a significant issue and that
the straightening of the highway at Mud Bight was a result of
the concern over the problem. Ashcraft further stated that
would like to see a campaign that included pictures of the wrecked
vehicles posted at the high school, to increase driver safety
All in all, the luncheon was a success in that the members were
brought up to speed on the changes that are currently in the
works, also the expected changes in the near future, for both
the Police and Fire Departments, all for the betterment of Ketchikan.
The Greater Ketchikan Chamber
of Commerce's next luncheon is scheduled for January 11th. The
keynote speaker will be the District Executive for Scouting,
Also coming up is the Chamber's
39th Annual Awards Banquet which will take place at the Ted Ferry
Civic Center on Saturday, January 14th. The keynote speaker for
that event will be Governor Frank Murkowski. For reservations
or ticket information, contact the Chamber at 225-3184.
Marie L. Monyak is
a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Marie at email@example.com
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