Louisa County Considering Fire & EMS Changes
Early this year the Office of Emergency Medical Services and the Virginia Fire Services Board completed a study of fire and EMS in Louisa County. It recommends changes in operational protocols to make them more consistent.
All of the volunteer fire and EMS would report operationally to County Fire and EMS Chief Robert Dubē.
Dube: As it stands today, there's twelve different agencies, counting the county fire and EMS, and all twelve of them have an individual leader; now while there are monthly meetings, the EMS association meets monthly, the fire association meets separately monthly, and then me or a representative from my office goes to both meetings. There is no central chain of command or line of authority.
The study that produced the proposed restructuring , Chief Dubē said, was exhaustive.
Dube: They studied our entire system, top to bottom, and they interviewed career providers; they had a meeting with the volunteer agencies and their leadership. They talked to people in the community and they came out with a series of recommendations and then basically, it was a consolidation or a streamlining of the process where there is one person in charge operationally.
It considers the individuality, he said, of the volunteer companies.
Dube: They still have their own buildings and equipment where they can select their own officers and membership; however, it would be county-wide policies regarding operational issues.
A very preliminary first draft was released at the end of last month.
Dube: We had one large meeting last week with the EMS leadership, but there was about 35 people there, so it was a lot of other volunteers there; we have another one scheduled with the fire association in two weeks, and then a town hall meeting the week after that. There's been quite a bit of discussion going on in the last two weeks since the original draft was proposed, and there's been some changes to it already and that's the way the process should work; everybody should have input. While we may not all agree on every bit of it, it's something that, as long as we keep in mind that the whole focus is to provide an effective and efficient service to the community, and when someone calls 911, we get an effective response. That's really all we're trying to do.
Louisa’s volunteer fire companies have a long history. The first career EMS providers were hired in 1999.
Dube: Two and a half years ago, the county moved towards providing some coverage for fire as well, because some of the companies had requested specifically daytime help and that's kind of evolved to the point today where we have 24/7 help, and the people that are career staff are trained to do both fire and EMS.
The need for paid staff, he said, was a combination of many things. The economy has a big impact on the ability of people to volunteer their time and the numbers available during the work day.
Dube: The other part of it, and in my opinion, a significant part of it, is the training that's required these days is far more lengthy and in-depth and obviously, it takes a lot longer that what it used to ten, fifteen years ago.
Chief Dubē supports the proposals. He came to Louisa County after a 30-year career with the Fairfax County Fire Department and says his experience and his knowledge of fire and EMS operations nationally are informing his decision. He said, however, that the opinions of the volunteers deserve consideration.
Dube: There has been some input from volunteer leaders and rank-and-file firefighters and medics that we've taken into consideration, and I believe that the ordinance is going to be modified through some of their input. I believe they've got valuable input and I'm certain we're gonna use some of that.
The proposal doesn't appear popular among many of the volunteers, who voiced concerns about everything from their treatment to funding. The Office of Emergency Medical Services is in the midst of an investigation into charges that Louisa’s first response agencies are not able to meet the burden of continuous fire and EMS coverage.
John Ogle, WCVE News