EMERGENCY SERVICES POSITION
In the mid 1990’s the Brown County League of Women Voters conducted a year-long study on funding and delivery of emergency services in Brown County. This study was one of many based on the mission of the League.
The emergency study undertaken in the 90s included public safety, including fire prevention and fire protection. Research, invited speakers and interviews, led to an understanding of the many issues involved, such as road width for the large fire truck to travel on, access width of drives and bridges to residences, turnabouts, working fire hydrants, lack of sufficiently large water pipes, resulting in a lack of fire hydrants in some areas, the possibility of establish dry hydrants, etc.
The fire departments were helpful with information and one fire department especially suggested that the League should look into a county-wide fire district. The assumption was that if two full-time employees could be hired to work full-time with the fire departments, residents could be assured that there would be around the clock someone available to take emergency calls. County-wide planning and record-keeping would also make it easier to get firefighters to the site of a fire as quickly as possible.
The League came to the conclusion that, indeed a county-wide fire district would be the best option for Brown County. In a public forum and a written report the League presented their findings and encouraged decision and policy makers to consider implementation of a county wide fire protection district. Parts of the report such as road width and turn-arounds have been implemented. County wide planning and hiring two full time persons has not.
As part of the League mission, the following information is presented on the purposes and advantages of having a countywide fire protection district.
LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF BROWN COUNTY
POSITION ON EMERGENCY SERVICES
The League is committed to work for the creation of a fire district, including emergency medical services, for the benefit and well-being of all county residents. To this end the League will hold several information forums, provide input at public meetings, lobby the commissioners and write articles for the newspapers.
Adopted May 14, 1996Susanne Gaudin, President.
BROWN COUNTY FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES FACT SHEET
County emergency services involve many county departments and service providers. Their work and equipment are funded through various sources. Much of the services are provided by volunteers.
Brown County has in all six volunteer fire departments. Cordry Sweetwater, Fruitdale, Hamblen Twp., Jackson Twp., Van Buren Twp. And Washington Township Fire Department, generally referred to as the Brown County Volunteer Fire Department. The fire departments are currently funded by the townships and raise additional monies through fund raisers.
Emergency medical service is provided by the Columbus Regional Hospital Ambulance Service. The Brown County EMT Association is a separate rescue association which owns and operates the rescue squad located at the former Seibel Clinic. The Brown County volunteer fire departments, emergency medical technicians and ambulance, work together closely and are generally cross-trained. Conservation officers and police help whenever they can.
At the League-sponsored panel discussion (Nov. 29, 1995) there was general agreement: With the rapid growth in Brown County, emergency services (fire/emergency medical/hazardous materials) are stretched to the limit. The County needs to evaluate the adequacy of these services and make necessary adjustments. We need to start concrete planning for improved emergency services before we get to the point of crisis.
For emergency services the time factor is crucial. Road widths and how well roads and bridges are maintained are as important for fire as they are for rescue and ambulance services. For fighting fires, there needs to be an adequate water supply and access to the fire by fire trucks. There needs to be provision for access roads and turn-arounds for fire trucks. Fire hydrants and dry hydrants should be installed in all new subdivisions. There is a need for someone to work with water companies to assure an adequate water supply for fighting fires and to ensure that existing fire hydrants and flush hydrants be maintained in working order.
Rather than relying totally on volunteer fire services it was suggested that Brown County consider establishing a county-wide fire protection district with its own board and taxing capability. If a district is established, IC 36-8-11 requires a Fire Board of Trustees, appointed by the County Commissioners. This district would have the authority to tax the property of those it serves in order to pay for fire protection, and to be capable of providing rapid, up-to-date, professional, well-coordinated emergency services (fire/medical/hazardous materials) to all areas of the county. Some increase in property tax will be necessary to fund the operation of a fire service district, but that increase will not just result in better service to those who live and work in the district. It is also expected to result in direct savings through a reduction in insurance premiums by lowering the classification from a level 10 by ISO Commercial Risk Services, Inc., a not-for-profit organization that conducts community fire protection surveys for insurance underwriters.
The Brown County Volunteer Fire Department has held public meetings and presented a proposal to the County Commissioners and the Nashville Town Council for the formation of a fire protection district, which would include Washington Township and the Town of Nashville. The District would be expanded as fire departments of other townships express a desire to come in.
The Brown County Volunteer Fire Department currently provides protection to app. 5,000 residents in its protection area, with an estimated three to five million visitors, numerous business properties and wildland areas and, through mutual aid agreements, it provides support to other departments throughout the county. It is responsible for providing protection to an area exceeding 102 square miles, larger than any other first response area in Brown, Monroe or Bartholomew County.
In 1989, the Brown County Volunteer Fire Department responded to an estimated 40 calls for help. In 1995 the department responded to 189. During these same 6 years, the department has provided its services with only a minimal increase in budget and personnel. Currently the department receives $12,000 per year from the Washington Township Trustee and $4,000 from the Town of Nashville and has access to the town capital improvement fund, which is an estimated $4,000 in 1995. It also receives $1,000 per year from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to help defray cost of providing wildfire protection on state lands.
The department consists of app. 20 members, all are expected to participate in continued trainint to constantly improve their skills. Several of the members are certified by the State of Indiana as instructors who provide training for members and members of departments in the area. Several are also certified by the state as first responders and extrication technicians to assist ambulance personnel. The department has received equipment to enable it to serve as the backup rescue service for Brown County and it is currently the only department in the county properly equipped to respond to hazardous material incidents. All department members are volunteers and due to their jobs and other responsibilities, not all are available to answer every call for help. In 1993, many properties in the department’s protection area have been eligible to receive a reduction in insurance premiums. In 1993, many properties in the department’s protection area were classified from level 9 to level 7 by ISO Commercial Risk Services, Inc., a not-fo-profit organization that conducts community fire protection surveys for insurance underwriters. There is a current yearly savings through Fire Protection Insurance in the area including the Town of Nashville and a surrounding 5 mile radius from the Brown County Volunteer Fire Department Station.
3. Emergency Medical Services
Under a new system should emergency medical services be privately or publicly funded, or both? (It is currently a private-public partnership).
4. Should the Plan Commission have provisions for adequate access by fire trucks and emergency services when granting permits for buildings and subdivisions?
5. Should County government assure that road widths and road and bridge maintenance are adequate for fire, rescue and ambulance services.
6. Should there be long-range plans and periodical reviews and updates of the county’s emergency response network.
7. Should a satellite to a hospital be located in Brown County?
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