Board of County Commissioners
Gadsden County, Florida
Fire Services Workshop Agenda
May 25, 2023
Present: Kimblin NeSmith, Chair, District 3
Eric Hinson, Vice-Chair, District 1
Alonzetta Simpkins, District 2
Brenda Holt, District 4
Ronterious “Ron” Green, District 5
Edward J. Dixon, County Administrator
Clayton Knowles, County Attorney
Marcella Blocker, Deputy Clerk
Adriana Quijada, Secretary to the Boards
CALL TO ORDER, INVOCATION, PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Chair called workshop to Order at 2:05 PM, Commissioner Simpkins gave the Invocation and then led in the Pledge of Allegiance.
CITIZENS REQUESTING TO BE HEARD (3-Minute Limit)
The Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners welcomes and encourages public participation at all meetings of the Board. Citizens are free to speak for up to three (3) minutes on non-agenda items. Public comments and participation are also encouraged for items on the agenda. Additionally, if you are unable to attend a meeting in person, comments from the Public can also be submitted via email to CitizensToBeHeard@gadsdencountyfl.gov until noon on the date of the meeting. Comments submitted after the deadline, but prior to the meeting, will be added to the official record, but the County cannot guarantee that Commissioners and staff will have adequate time to review comments prior to the meeting. Citizens are further encouraged to participate via Zoom using the credentials on the County’s website. The Board’s meetings are also broadcast live on the Board’s Facebook page.
Dixon read aloud the above statement.
Fire services Workshop Presentation
Dixon stated Kris Hood, Chief of Emergency Services will come up and make a presentation.
Chief Hood appeared before the Board listed the current funding for each department. Contract expires Sept. 30, 2023 and Quincy expires Sept 30, 2024.
A company called ISO (Insurance Services Office) creates ratings for Fire Departments and their surrounding communities. Ratings calculate how well-equipped Fire Departments are to put out fires in that community. He showed the current ISO score within the County.
Simpkins stepped out at 2:27 pm
A department that has less than four certified firefighters showing up on an incident is automatically rated a 10. Any area that is greater than 5 miles from a fire station or greater than 1000 feet from a fire hydrant are viable water source is automatically rated a 10. 50 points comes from quality of local fire department including staffing levels, training and proximity of firehouse.
40 points comes from availability of water supply, including the prevalence of fire hydrants and how much water is available for pitching out fires.
10 points comes from the quality of the area’s emergency Communications System (911).
An extra 5.5 points comes from community outreach, including fire prevention and safety courses.
Any area that is more than five driving miles from a nearest fire station is automatically rated 10.
Current factors effecting Fire Departments --
· Money and Manpower
· Limited number of certified volunteers
· Water Sources
· 911 Dispatch
· Station conditions/locations
· Multiple departments potentially working against one another
· Lack of unified command system throughout
· No unity when it comes to equipment and not being interchangeable
· Multiple departments applying for the same grants.
Simpkins returned at 2:30 pm
Gadsden County Emergency Services
· Currently have 24 career Dual certified Fire/EMS full-time and 5 flex personnel (Fire II.)
· 24/7 coverage for EMS/fire (depending on EMS calls)
· Provide a better response rate to protect life and structure
· Improve ISO ratings within county operated departments operating under County Fire number
· Expand coverage throughout the county with an increase of career staffing
· Provide an adequate number of certified fire personnel to departments operating under County Fire number.
· Add 3 quick response positions (one per shift)
· Positions need to be filled with a dual certified fire fighter/paramedic
How Helps County
· Experiencing paramedic shortages with three positions currently open and expect 2-3 to leave this summer
· These positions would need to be backfilled with EMT’s in the event unable to obtain paramedics
· Staffing E EMT’s on an EMS unit will not have the highest level of care possible. With a paramedic on a quick response vehicle this will assist the shift captain with being able to backup BLS units and provide ALS intervention.
· With this position would be able to always keep someone in the county and be able to respond with fire are pending EMS calls.
Recommended Fire Coverage-Future Plan
· Per ISO standards, must ensure a minimum of four certified personnel respond to a fire call to achieve best score
· It is recommended to add a total of 19 career staff to GCES to start with staffing fire needs
o 6 EMT/FF
o 6 PMD/FF
o One fire training officer
o 6medical dispatchers for fire and EMS calls
· This initial addition will allow GCES to dedicate for personnel per shift for fire coverage throughout the entire county
· With adding a training officer this will improve training throughout the county as well as add additional fire response during business hours when volunteer coverage might be limited
· This will allow the guaranteed response 24/7 in the event that volunteers are unavailable
· Recommended to do a yearly of malice is to evaluate the need for growth within the department (adding personnel with growth)
Benefits for Adding Fire personnel
· Will provide a guaranteed timely response in the event of a fire related call
· Will provide an adequate amount of Manpower per ISO standards to respond 24 hours a day seven days a week
· Will be a positive step towards growing a well-established career department
· Dedicated staff will be able to assist with medical calls in the events additional resources are needed
Benefits for Adding a Fire Training Officer
· Will ensure a unified training schedule that stays in compliance with ISO and NFPA standards
· Provide additional fire coverage/response within normal business hours when volunteer coverage might be limited
· Would have an active role with new hires an orientation process to make sure employees are adequately trained to be able to act on the front line
· The person obtaining this position would be the employees point of contact
· This position will need to be filled with a highly trained and state certified firefighter
Benefits for Adding Medical Dispatchers
· Ability to recognize the need for the proper resource response.
· Ability to provide prearrival medical instructions. Example: CPR, bleeding control
· Dispatcher solely dedicated for EMS and fire
Cost to Add Paid County Staff for Fire Coverage
Position Salary FICA FRS Health Total
EMT/FF $15.50 $3,946.18 $13,143.60 $10,832.64 $81,118.42
PMD/FF $17.25 $4,391.71 $14,627.56 $12,056.68 $90,276.59
Chief stated they now need to integrate.
Recommendations for Improvement
· Put $25,000 for a training budget for Fire 1 certification. (Would certify about 25 volunteers with fire one certification). For all future budgets
· This current year provide up to $10,000 for training.
· Provide call incentives for certified volunteers that respond under one County Fire number.
· Bring volunteers and fire departments wishing to join GCES under one County Fire number and County roster.
· Provide unified training for career staff and volunteer staff that operate under GCES.
Benefit for Department Integration with the County
· Increased personnel for one unified County response (one roster)
· Better response rate for volunteers/career staff.
· Improve ISO rating for integrated departments.
· Pay per call incentive volunteers ($20 per call)
· Offer paid certification
· Unified training system
· Unified command system
· Unified equipment
· Increased grant success
How do We Start Now?
· GCES moves dual certified EMS crew to the Robertsville station to potentially help with fire coverage (if not on EMS calls)
· Communicate with other volunteer departments/ community leaders to see who would like to integrate under one county fire number
· Departments that wish to integrate with GCES start training as one unified department
· After the need is recognized, we develop a plan to be able to provide dedicated staffing coverage for the partnering departments. (county stabbed departments would need to come under one state fire number)
· Continue to grow and develop a unified department with a unified command system
· Add additional staffing for a dedicated fire response within county operated departments
· Re-evaluate with all departments to recognize the need for integration including the City of Quincy
· Continue to offer unified training within the county operated department, including volunteers operating under county fire number
· Each budget year continue with growth demand in order to establish adequate staffing and equipment to be able to keep ISO rating at the minimum and provide adequate staffing for fire response throughout the county
· Continue to grow and establish a well-respected volunteer/career department
· Identify a continuous funding source
· It is recommended to look into a MSBU to help offset the cost of a growing department
Additional Needs to make it happen
· With an increase in staffing additional sets of Bunker gear will need to be purchased
· New stations
· Renovate existing stations
· Purchase additional fire apparatuses
· Purchase additional fire equipment
· Quick response vehicles
· Provide access to all county buildings and equipment to career staff
How do they offset the cost? –
· Potential to perform Fire Code Inspections
o Members of staff are currently certified inspectors
· Allocate a portion of the gas tax to GCES
o With guaranteed fire coverage with career staff, ISO ratings will improve thus reducing the cost of Home Insurance premiums for our citizens
o Life and property will be protected with career/volunteer staff 24/7
How To We Recruit Career Staff for Shortages?
· Develop a scholarship program with an application process through the school system that will allow a set number of students to be able to obtain a paid scholarship for EMT and Fire School
· Paid tuition for current employees
· Career Days
· Social media
Pros and Cons for Volunteer Fire Departments:
· Good hearted personnel
· Cost effective
· No guaranteed response
· A decrease in volunteers
· Increased ISO ratings
· Increased insurance premiums for homeowners
· Not meeting minimum training requirements
· Little to no incentive
· Lack of certified personnel
· Lengthy certification time
· Volunteers have other jobs they are obligated to
· No benefits other than pride
· Lack of funding
· Lack of unified command within county
Pros and Cons for Career Fire Departments:
· Guarantee timely response
· 24/7 coverage
· State certified staffing
· Better structure protection
· Life safety
· Better public perception
· Decreased ISO ratings
· Decreased insurance premiums
· Increase for response for tragic events
· Dedicated training
· Rewarding career
· Benefit package
· Better recruitment and retention
· Room for growth
· Increased staffing requirements
· Increase in equipment requirements
· It is imperative that we continue to invest in public safety for the citizens and visitors of Gadsden County
· We must continue to replace the antiquated fleet and equipment and address the needs of the community
· Together, with the BOCC, we can achieve our goal of providing fiscally-sound, high quality, comprehensive fire rescue services
Commissioner Simpkins stepped out at 2:53 pm
Commissioner Simpkins returned at 2:54 pm
Commissioner Green suggested to go page by page with any questions there might be.
Ms. Daniels appeared before the board and explained the PIO was having some technical issues with her computer and asked if the board could take a recess. Chair NeSmith asked for a motion for a 5-minute recess.
COMMISSIONER HOLT MADE A MOTION FOR A RECESS AND COMMISSIONER GREEN MADE THE SECOND. THE BOARD VOTED 5-0 BY VOICE VOTE TO APPROVE.
Workshop resumed at 3:07 pm
Chair NeSmith had a question on Page 3. He asked if there was any collaboration with the different organizations applying for the grants.
Chief stated they were independent and could apply for whatever their needs were.
Chair asked how do they coordinate activities. Chief Walker stated multiple departments could apply.
Holt asked, if possible, to have meeting with all them and have a list of… who was applying for what and the needs.
Chair stated they need more collaboration and understanding.
Simpkins stated as a County, they were responsible for Fire. Still falls under GCBOCC as their responsibility? Dixon stated it was the County’s responsibility.
Dixon stated how they achieve it over the years was quite differently. Every fire department has a very different number.
Holt stated they needed inventory of each fire station. How many grants received, who has not received grants…
Simpkins asked how could do it differently because the way it is right now is not working.
Green asked if they could see what their budget is.
Chair asked if had overall proposal… Chief Walker stated…
Chair asked if they see every entity’s annual budget? Chief stated yes.
Chair asked what was the next major factor that affects ISO rating.
Green asked what does it take to get hydrant in appropriate places. Chief stated…
Green asked how they could change that? Dixon stated generally that would be a Talquin question. Talquin requires them to pay for the line.
Chair asked if they had the five-mile radius circle. Chief Walker stated yes.
Simpkins asked if it had been reported. Chief Walker said…
Green stated there could be some that Chief was not aware.
Holt stated they need to be able to have people to get into these stations and get equipment.
Green had a question for page 18. Stated he liked the possibility of the Dual certification. Asked if… Asked if they were advertising…
Dixon stated they now hire dual certified officers. Chief Hood stated 24.
Green asked if they had available funding now in budget to advertise for more firefighter or more dual certified people. Dixon stated they have applied.
Chief Hood stated they have 3 open positions.
Green stated they need to make sure they were building a great foundation. Need to keep in mind that EMS already has a challenging job.
Holt asked what was the proximity of the gear they need… Chief Hood stated as far as gear, 2 ambulances that were approved last year…
Chair stated they would pause and allow the speaker that requested to be heard come up to the Board.
Danny Hunter, appeared before the Board.
Gave a presentation on Fire Service in GC.
Focused on expanding the municipalities’ ability to provide more enhanced fire services towards PT/FT staffing, with enhanced funding to independent VFD’s.
Green thanked him for a thorough presentation. Asked if Mr. Hunter has had opportunity to meet with Chief Andre…
Holt stated cities can apply for funding for their fire station.
Simpkins stated was under the impression…
Green asked if they were having any young people to work in EMS and Fire Services. Dixon stated they would work with career source next year. Put kids in fire prep.
Hinson stated generated revenue…
Simpkins stated the ISO ratings does …
Dixon said need 3rd party involved to see what models available.
Simpkins said would like to get model from State Fire Marshal to be able to move in right direction.
Holt stated need to have CA check with fire marshals…
Green stepped out at 4:43 pm
Green returned at 4:46 pm.
Simpkins stated they need to contact the State Marshal and see when they are available.
Holt stated to get them to come before the Board to discuss this.
Chair asked CA to bring in an independent they would have to check budget? Dixon stated they could do an RFI
MOTION TO ADJOURN
Workshop adjourned at