Michael Galleano, the new community risk reduction officer for Anaheim Fire & Rescue, explains his role in the fire department by likening himself to a car mechanic.
He’s the one who makes sure tires are properly inflated and windshield wipers work. By keeping tabs on these small details, he hopes to prevent tragedies.
“We are the preventive maintenance to keep your car running on a day-to-day basis so you can drive safely,” Galleano said.
Anaheim Fire & Rescue’s newly hired community risk reduction team will be in the front line of public safety by inspecting structures in Anaheim to make sure they meet fire codes and by regulating businesses that store hazardous materials.
The team includes Galleano and part-time employees Andy Torres and Justin Day, who join the existing professional staff of fire inspectors and hazardous material specialist. The community risk reduction officer position at AFR is the first of its kind in Orange County, combining the jobs of fire inspector and hazardous materials inspector.
Deputy Chief/Fire Marshall Rusty Coffelt said there are a few reasons why AFR decided to create the team.
First, having a community risk reduction officer handle jobs formerly done by two people saves tax dollars.
Second, it is more convenient for business owners to have these inspections done in one visit instead of two.
Third, by having local control of information on hazardous materials located in Anaheim businesses, Anaheim Fire & Rescue firefighters are able to know that dangerous and hazardous materials are present in industrial fires before going into a structure.
For example, Coffelt said there are some Anaheim businesses that use huge refrigeration units, which involve the use of hazardous ammonia.
“All that has been plotted out for them and they know that when they get there. We can head a major crisis off before it gets out of hand,” Coffelt said, in reference to giving firefighters valuable information before entering a structure to fight a fire.
It is common for many fire departments to have fire inspectors that visit construction sites of new businesses for fire code requirements like smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors and exit widths.
But AFR is the only fire department in Orange County recognized by the state as a Certified Unified Program Agency (CUPA). This designation from the California Environmental Protection Agency allows the community risk reduction team to inspect and regulate chemical and manufacturing businesses in Anaheim.
Notably, these inspections will include checking for leaks from underground tanks at gas stations.
This task is typically handled by the Orange County Health Care Agency. However, because of the size of the City of Anaheim and the variety of business in the city, Anaheim took over this responsibility in July 2001.
“You can provide a little more customized service to your customers,” Coffelt said.
Galleano, most recently a fire inspector for Hermosa Beach, said he feels ecstatic about the opportunity to serve Anaheim. It’s sort of a homecoming for him; he had a former job on a private fire brigade at the former Boeing plant in Anaheim.
The Wrightwood resident learned he had a knack for reading and understanding the fire code. Galleano hopes to use this background to educate local business owners about what the fire code requires and the reasons behind it.
“The community involvement is also a big thing for me because I’m a people person,” Galleano said. “I appreciate the education component. When I get to return that understanding to the business owners and help them understand, that’s very gratifying for me.”
Galleano’s comrades, Torres and Day, come with prior experience working for AFR.
Torres, an Anaheim resident and Savannah High School graduate, started as a volunteer reserve firefighter. Recently he’s conducted inspections for AFR code enforcement and has done outreach with the homeless population.
“I’ve always wanted to have a career where I could go home and know I made a difference,” Torres said. “Now I can also feel like I’ve protected someone’s life.”
Day, a Huntington Beach resident, entered public service as an explorer for the Costa Mesa Fire Department.
He started working as an AFR reserve eight months ago and loves coming to work every day and learning something new.
He sees his job on the community risk reduction team as much bigger than simply writing up businesses for violations.
“It’s not about going out to a business and finding violations,” he said. “It’s about going out and explaining why something is a hazard and helping them resolve the issue.”