The Trenton-Dade County Fire Department’s new policy of staffing two firefighters during the week paid for itself the day it began, Jan. 1, said Alex Case, city mayor and chief executive. of the Emergency Management Agency.
That day, a call came in about a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the Subway restaurant in Trenton. Both ambulances were on a call, so Case said he and another firefighter took the city’s spare truck and transported the victim to meet with a paramedic. The victim survived.
“It paid for itself with one life saved,” Case said in a phone interview.
Firefighters sign up for two paid shifts during the week, he said, to help supplement the city’s fire department, which is made up mostly of 18 to 20 people. Those shifts pay $15 an hour, Case said, while other city volunteers are paid per call.
The new policy helps increase staffing during the day, when volunteer firefighters are working full-time, said Ansel Smith, deputy fire chief.
“It’s (for) all of our volunteers,” Smith said in a phone interview. “They can sign up for different shifts throughout the month. We’ve opened it up to all of our volunteers.”
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Protecting life is the fire department’s most important goal, Case said, and the second most important goal is protecting property. More consistent staffing during the week will help lower the city’s rate with the Bureau of Insurance Services, a federal rating agency that helps set property insurance rates.
Case said the Trenton Insurance Services Bureau rate was four, but he would like to go down to three. The department had done well with other factors in the score — access to water, training, equipment, 911 services — but staffing has been an issue because the department relies on volunteers, he said. he declares.
The Bureau of Insurance Services rates a paid firefighter as equal to three volunteers, Case said, because the paid firefighter can respond more quickly. Case said a lower rate from the Bureau of Insurance Services could significantly reduce insurance costs for taxpayers.
Smith also said that since the Trenton-Dade County Fire Department offered volunteers the option to sign up for paid shifts, it has helped increase participation and recruitment. During their shift, Case said these paid part-time firefighters could perform other duties required for the department’s Office of Insurance Services rating, which relieved the volunteer firefighters.
Case said the department had been considering adding shift firefighters for two years and two months of training had been provided before the January start date. Other regional departments in Rossville, LaFayette and Catoosa County also have part-time paid shifts, he said.
Both Smith and Case said a lot is asked of volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters are often busy on weekends, training every Thursday and having to venture out in cold weather and storms, so Case said city officials wanted to take good care of them.
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The Trenton-Dade County Fire Department is still recruiting volunteers for its one station serving the city, Smith said, and the seven fully volunteer-staffed stations throughout the county. Smith said times have changed and people don’t want to volunteer without pay. Deal agreed.
“We just don’t have enough people,” Case said. “It’s a nationwide problem, even for some big paid departments – they’re closing stations.”
The department would love to have more volunteer firefighters, but Case said God, Family, Fire is the priority ranking that fire department management places emphasis on its firefighters — and a lot of people can’t take it. time to serve.
Case said his father was a firefighter, and the current fire chief’s father formed Trenton-Dade County Fire in 1958. While honoring that legacy, Case said the department is helping train the next generation through a junior firefighter program associated with the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the United States.
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Also looking ahead, Case said city and county officials are working to build a training facility where firefighters can train, including live instruction in a burning structure. At that training center, Case said another satellite fire station was planned to fill a gap in fire coverage.
Case said a training center is another big addition that would help lower the rating of the community insurance services office.
Contact Andrew Wilkins at email@example.com or 423-757-6659.