Regional Fire & EMS forum held

Published 10:21 am Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) representatives throughout the region held a forum recently to discuss challenges and solutions for firefighters and EMS providers.

The forum, held at the Farmville Fire Department at 1000 W. Third St. on Feb. 26, was organized by the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC). The CRC recently issued a survey to classify the needs Fire & EMS departments are facing following concerns faced by various CRC members of dwindling volunteer numbers and resources facing these departments.

Melody Foster

CRC Executive Director Melody Foster moderated the forum. Panelists and speakers included Farmville Fire Department Chief Dean Farmer, Linwood Pulling and Luke Parker with the Virginia Office of EMS, Walter Bailey with the Virginia Fire Services Board and Chief of the Phenix Volunteer Fire Department and T. Wayne Hoover, of Lunenburg, who was a grant reviewer for the national Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG).

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“Each of them I considered an expert in a certain field,” Foster said.

Foster said the forum was a way to connect Fire & EMS personnel around the region with resources, as many face similar challenges. Foster said there were also flyers available at the forum for Fire & EMS personnel to take with them. While there was a small audience, Foster said the event was productive.

“There were a lot of good questions and discussion,” Foster said, noting interaction between panelists and audience members.

Dean Farmer

Farmer spoke about recruiting and retaining volunteers.

Farmer, in an interview Monday, said that the town’s proximity to Longwood University allows for a steady flow of volunteers.

“As a department based heavily on college students we have our strength in numbers and the desire to train and respond to calls for service,” Farmer said. “We attend Longwood Recruitment Fairs yearly. This gives a great opportunity to become partners with Longwood staff and it gives the students a wonderful environment to volunteer and learn some amazing skills along the way. We also provide this free training which provides National Certification.”

“Although we are unique in the nature of our department, I strongly encourage other departments to become involved in their schools, and with their local groups to showcase their departments,” Farmer said.

Concerning the forum, Farmer said it allowed for other departments to further communicate with each other and share ideas to strengthen the Fire & EMS services in the region.

“I do feel the forum was informative and provided a wide range of information to those in attendance,” Farmer said. “In the future I encourage others to attend and obtain ideas to grow their agency.”

Foster said Hoover spoke about his experience reviewing grants for the national program and the dos and don’ts for applying for the AFG. This includes making grants stand out by sharing compelling information about the department, its challenges and how it raises funds.

Foster said Bailey spoke about the Virginia Fire Services Board’s free Fire & EMS studies available to localities to determine departments’ strong and weak points. Fire studies were held in Cumberland and Farmville in 2018.

Pulling and Parker spoke about the Rescue Squad Assistance Fund (RSAF), a grant that provides services to rescue squads that is available twice a year. The next application deadline is Sept. 15.

Foster said the CRC is planning to potentially hold the Fire & EMS forum annually.