May 19, 2005

Fire chiefs express concerns

The entire Chiefs committee came to last Thursday's Dryden Town Board meeting to present a summary of status and to express concerns about a proposed emergency services consultant the board had been discussing since November.

Ron Flynn presents fire issues to the board
Neptune Hose Company Chief Ron Flynn presents fire issues to the Town Board while other chiefs listen.

Neptune Hose Company Chief Ron Flynn started with a prepared statement:

At the request of Councilman Stelick, we the Town of Dryden Chiefs Group collectively come before you this evening to provide a little history as to the Emergency Services within the Town of Dryden and to address the proposed Emergency Services Consultant position.

In the past, there were attempts by our respective past chiefs to have the Town Chiefs meet on a regular basis, but for whatever reason, the meetings stopped and ceased to exist. The interaction amongst the town departments unfortunately only occurred under the stress levels associated with a serious call.

Approximately five years ago, the Chiefs once again started meeting in attempts to address common issues that plague each volunteer department within the town.

Our meetings have dramatically evolved in five years, we have agendas, we take notes and in addition, we now have representation from Dryden Ambulance, Inc. and the Town Board.

As we come before you this evening, we can honestly say that we have made great strides in addressing some of the major and common issues such as the declining number of volunteers available to answer the calls, Emergency Medical Services, OSHA Requirements, Standardization of Training and Certifications just to name a few.

Although the declining number of volunteers in our ranks will unfortunately continue to be a major issue now and in the future, we have collectively worked out Automatic Mutual Aid Programs & Policies to share resources from one department to another.

To address the Emergency Medical Services tiered response issues, through the collaborative effort rand leadership coming from Dryden Ambulance, Inc, the Town Board and the Town of Dryden Chiefs group, by the reallocation of resources, Dryden Ambulance, Inc. implemented the “Med-Car” Program to expedite the delivery of Pre-Hospital Care to community members at no additional costs to the tax payers.

In addressing the OSHA Requirements specifically relating to the ability to wear Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, each department has agreed to use the Occumed Group, where twice and sometimes three times a year they come to a department within the town to conduct physicals to meet the minimum OSHA requirements.

Standardization of Training and Certifications, through the chiefs meetings we realized that the standards used by each department to certify their Interior Firefighters was not consistent. In conjunction with the Occumed Physicals, together we developed a Standardized Interior SCBA Training and Certification Program and for the past two years, the town of Dryden Fire Departments have certified in excess of fifty firefighters annually all to the same minimum standard.

In attempts to meet expectations from the town board relating to cost savings, departments have adopted a basic Turnout Gear Spec. and by doing so, we now have the ability to buy direct from a manufacturer at factory direct pricing reducing the cost to adequately equip each firefighter.

As you can see by the progression of the town chiefs group, we have the capability of dealing with the issues. Combined, the town chiefs group has a wide range of knowledge, expertise and experience totaling over three hundred years of Emergency Service to our respective communities.

Now that there is an open line of communication between the Town Board, and each department and agency, together we can attempt to overcome the issues.

Collectively we are not in favor of the Emergency Services Consultant, we are your consultants!

Together we can continue to maximize the utilization of resources, create and implement critically overdue programs such as the proposed Recruitment & Retention Program necessary to help combat the declining number of volunteers.

Collaboratively we can ensure that as the town continues to grow, so do the Emergency Services.

We have come a long way over the past five years by working together as a "team" or a "group" of dedicated individuals and by doing so we have become the envy of other departments on our accomplishments.

The future indeed holds a lot of challenges for the Town of Dryden Emergency Services and it will take the collaborative effort of all of us to progress into the future.

The Town Board responded, and there was some back and forth. Chief Flynn said that in the future, "a representative from a department will be here at each Town Board meeting to give you a briefing of where we are, and what we're doing."

Councilman Chris Michaels told Flynn that:

I take your joint recommendation quite seriously. You've given a lot of thought to that, and I'm very inclined to go along with that. I have to say, and I've said publicly many times, how impressed I am with how the meetings have been going...

A couple of things that we would have looked to the consultant to provide for us that you haven't mentioned specifically would be - that I would like the chiefs to provide - a joint analysis of your budgets. We get a variety of budget formats. It is a constant concern on the board side is it the right amount of equipment and is it allocated correctly throughout the town. As we've educated ourselves and as I've looked at it, part of what's been explained to me is that when there is an event, there's almost always going to be a mutual response from a number of departments. You need so much water on site, and you need multiple departments' tankers to that effectively in a lot of locations in this rural environment.

So, part of what we were going to look at the consultant to do is give us some feedback, an individual's opinion as to how to best allocate the equipment throughout the town - where should we be funding more, where should we be funding less, etc. And I think that would be an area it might be difficult for the chiefs to tackle. It might be - internally, that might create some contentiousness in the group. You seem to be working very well together, and if you're willing to give that a shot and give us your joint feedback...

We're going from nothing to a group that's stepping up and saying "we can provide the advice you're looking for..." We were looking to the consultant to a more open-ended question, to provide us any recommendations they could make as far as equipment, what should we be budgeting for, that's already come out of a lot of discussion. And the communications discussion... there's obviously a lot with what the state and the county are going to do.

Flynn replied:

There is an ample amount of resources within the Town. One thing that the Town Board needs to realize is through the chiefs' group, just because it's not painted a specific color, does not mean it cannot be used. The apparatus was bought by town taxpayers' money and it's there to be used for the town.

Councilman Steve Stelick asked Clayton Bronson of Dryden Ambulance how the new Med-Car was helping address the lack of response in the Etna area during the day. Bronson replied that "The program's been very well received and definitely gets them there and on the road within a few minutes," and then Natan Huffman, Chief of the Varna Fire Company, said:

I've been very happy with the program as far as the response from the Town of Dryden. It's not been without its problems. The problems, however, reside at the county dispatch level, not within the responding people. When we get dispatched, we go. It's very seldom that you're going to hear a second activation for someone to get to a scene within the Etna district. We're certainly willing, and capable of putting qualified trained people on the scenes quickly.

Councilman Stelick commended the chiefs on their handling of the Etna response issue, saying "you stepped up to the plate; working together you guys have done an outstanding job."

Councilman Mike Hattery then spoke, saying "I've been really encouraged since Steve's talked about what's been happening at the meetings... the cooperative effort."

County Legislator Martha Robertson and Varna Fire Chief Natan Huffman talked about the county dispatch issues, and made plans to address them later.

Posted by simon at May 19, 2005 7:17 PM in ,
Note on photos