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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Report targets services
Rescue, fire ideas aired

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

A study of local fire and rescue services recommends that Henry County employ a chief of fire-rescue, consider adding another paid EMS crew and re-establish the high school fire and EMS training program.

The study by the Virginia Fire Services Board was presented to the Henry County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday night.

The study’s recommendations and findings — which are guidelines — include:

Organizational development

• Unified coordination — The study cites a lack of coordination of fire and rescue services in the county, though the current leadership of each organization seems to work well together.

The study says the county should employ a chief of fire-rescue to supervise and coordinate fire and rescue.

A Fire Rescue Oversight Committee should be adopted to provide administrative and operational oversight in conjunction with the chief of fire-rescue. The study suggests consolidating three existing groups — the Fire Association, Rescue Association and Emergency Medical Services Advisory Committee — into the Fire Rescue Oversight Committee.

• Volunteer recruitment and retention — The county should develop a countywide recruitment and retention program with incentives for volunteering. The county should re-establish the high school program, as it is a valuable tool for recruiting younger members into the fire and rescue services.

• Strategic planning — The county’s fire and rescue organizations should develop a data-driven strategic plan with stakeholder input, and should include a unified mission and vision with measurable goals.

• Going forward, the fire and rescue organizations should consider the possibility of merging organizations and capital assets to reduce operational and capital expenses and maintenance.

Delivery of services

• Operations and staffing — In addition to employing a a chief of fire-rescue and adopting a Fire Rescue Oversight Committee, a single set of countywide Standard Operating Procedures/Guidelines (SOPs and SOGs) should be developed and implemented. The county should consider adding another paid EMS crew and evaluating other fire and rescue staffing needs in Henry County.

• Communications — Henry County should work with Patrick County to implement a call path system (which means improve call transfers) between the respective Emergency Communication Centers. Also, Henry County should continue to strive for excellence by re-evaluating response protocols and zones, as well as ensure adequate staffing of the Martinsville-Henry County E911 Communication Center.

• Liabilities — The county and Fire Rescue Oversight Committee should establish Rapid Intervention Team (RIT) training and policy, ensure training compliance with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and re-evaluate compliance with applicable laws related to employment and volunteering.


• High school program — The county should work with the Henry County School Board to re-establish the high school program that provides juniors and seniors the opportunity to take fire and EMS training.

• Coordinated training program — The Fire Rescue Oversight Committee should establish a training committee to coordinate fire and rescue training with the Henry County fire and EMS training coordinators, and a single set of position-specific minimum training standards. Further, the county should work to increase the number of instructors in the county and consider implementing a cross-training program.

• Continuity of leadership and succession planning — The county should develop a program that demonstrates the value of leadership and interpersonal relationship skills in the fire and rescue organizations and focuses on growing new leadership within the county.

Administration, policy and finance

• County funding and accountability practices — The county should annually evaluate needs of the fire and rescue organizations, consider a consolidated revenue recovery contract and consider alternate funding possibilities through grants.

• Standardization and central purchasing — The county should survey the fire and rescue organizations for equipment commonalties, establish standard specifications and centralize purchasing to ensure cost efficiency.

• Fleet management — The county should create a capital improvement program (CIP) with a critical priority list of fleet replacements. The Fire Rescue Oversight Committee should develop a single set of specifications for future apparatus purchase, refurbishment and replacement.

Edwin Smith of the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association said the priority list of fleet replacements should be based on who needs what the most.

Smith, one of the study committee members, also said Henry County should celebrate its successes, capitalize on what’s working and observe opportunities for improvements.

“Henry County has huge successes,” he said, mentioning volunteers and staff.

Another study committee member, William Kyger of the Virginia Association of Counties, said Rockingham County, where he is chairman of the board of supervisors, has been “absorbing” a similar study for about 10 years, implementing parts of it over time.

Deputy Henry County Administrator Dale Wagoner said in an interview it takes time to develop and implement systems.

Kyger said that if Newtown, Conn., did not have systems in place, emergency officials would not have been able to respond as quickly as they did to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday.

Smith and Kyger both are members of the Virginia Fire Services Board.

The Henry County Board of Supervisors will begin discussing the study at its planning retreat in February.


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