Building Blocks: Cumberland works to synch up all fire departments

Published 12:14 am Friday, May 24, 2024

The goal in Cumberland County is to get everyone on the same page. Every applicant for fire departments and emergency medical services will get the same application. Each department will get the same equipment. After seeing a need, Cumberland Fire Chief Andy Aigner worked with the chiefs of each department to come up with a plan. 

“We formed a county standardization committee,” Aigner said on May 16, explaining his plan to county supervisors. “This committee has been tasked with standardizing everything we do, from the time we get into the department to the time you’re elected chief of the department.” 

Every fire station has a representative on the committee, along with emergency medical staff. Those volunteers are then asked to make monthly reports to the group of fire chiefs with their progress. Every time they come up with a new way to standardize a procedure or piece of equipment, that’s sent to the chiefs. If the chiefs approve, then the new process goes into effect. If chiefs don’t like the idea, which is determined by a vote, then they send it back to the committee, with a request to try again. 

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“They’ll standardize the application process, they’ll standardize what the equipment is, when it gets issued, how it gets issued,” Aigner said. “They’ll standardize the orientation process for new members, what requirements will be for each level. They will standardize everything in the county.” 

That goes for mutual aid agreements with other counties as well. Currently, the agreements are different for each of the fire and EMS groups in Cumberland. The goal is for this committee to work together and come up with one standardized version that everyone can use. 

Cumberland looks at timelines

As for a deadline, there’s no set timetable for when all of this work will be completed. There’s two reasons for that. First, it’s a group of volunteers, meeting when they are able. Second, this is a lot of work. We’re talking about a complete change in some cases for departments, adopting new ways of doing things or new procedures for bringing on volunteers. 

Cumberland is the latest county in the region to talk about a streamlined system, but the first in several months to develop a plan to make it happen. Back in March, Prince Edward County supervisors discussed the need for a streamlined fire and emergency medical operation in the county. That discussion, however, centered around the potential to create a public safety director position and have that person begin the process of streamlining.