Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.
Fire-Rescue Commission endorses minimum training standards
By Jan. 1, 2013, every fire and rescue provider—volunteer and career—will have to complete almost 1,000 hours of training in 34 different classes if they want to be a command-level officer.
(The county’s training chief, Jeff Bailey, said the county does not expect any volunteer to complete all of these courses in two years, but if a person wants to serve as a command-level officer, that person will need to have those 34 classes completed. Also, some members may already have a lot of these certifications.)
An entry-level member could be required to take up to 424 class hours of training to meet the standards.
The Fire and Rescue Commission tonight endorsed those minimum training standards. Pages 6-11 of this document show the levels of training standards.
Although Chancellor Volunteer Fire and Rescue member Eric Lasky told the commission earlier that more work and discussion is needed before these standards are approved, Chancellor’s representative on the commission, Kevin Dillard, did not make any comments about the program.
Commission member Wanda Gardner, with Spotsylvania Volunteer Rescue, said she didn’t understand why an EMS provider would have to take a class in pump driver operator. Her concern was the only one raised by the three people who serve on the commission and represent the three volunteer agencies.
(According to Bailey and the breakdown of training levels, an operator of an ambulance, such as Gardner, will not be required to take driver pump operator and rural water supply. If a person wanted to operate an ambulance AND an engine, he or she would need to take those courses)
The commission unanimously endorsed the standards. These standards were created as a result of internal and external reviews of a Feb. 5 fatal fire. You can read about that fire here.
In the coming days, I will be working on a story for the newspaper to get reaction from supervisors, Lasky, volunteers and career fire and rescue officials. I will talk to County Administrator Doug Barnes, who is leading this effort to improve the combined fire and rescue system.
Jeff Bailey, the county’s director of fire and rescue training, and Fire and Rescue Chief Chris Eudailey spent several minutes explaining the process of how the training standards were selected.
Bailey said the process started in late June when Barnes asked him and other fire and rescue officials to begin formulating a training plan. There was an Aug. 28 summit at Germanna Community College, at which Bailey presented in a powerpoint the training levels the system was considering. The meeting was public and attended by career and volunteers.
“From that point, there was an e-mail to chief officers of each agency asking for one representative to be a representative of the department to speak. That meeting was Sept. 16 at Spotsylvania Volunteer Rescue Squad’s training center.”
This meeting was not made public. Bailey said each agency was represented at this meeting and he told everyone that all of the ideas and concerns would be taken into consideration, but there would be no guarantee that every single idea or change would be used in the final minimum training standards. Bailey said he met with Barnes, Eudailey and a career captain to review all of the concerns raised at that meeting.
“All of them we looked at very hard,” Bailey said. “Some of them we did not put into the program. It was a group decision. The ultimate mission was to serve residents best.”
Bailey also said that the two-year time frame was not picked out of the air. He said county officials surveyed other departments in the state and the most popular response was it should take two years for the system providers to achieve the standard training levels.
Eudailey then “reinforced” Bailey’s comments by saying the volunteers and career personnel on the front line of emergencies need to have this training.
“Is this a perfect plan that lies before you? Probably not. There has also been some misunderstanding about what is required as far as people in these positions,” Eudailey said.
Eudailey said he wants to review the program after six months to see how close the system is to reaching the training standards. He said it is in the best interest of the system to “build a bridge to where we are now and to where we’re going.”
“This is a path that we’ve not been down before. We are at point A and we want to get to point B. As we go down this road together, we are going to need some help.”