Fire & EMS forum held

Published 1:04 pm Wednesday, March 27, 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. in Farmville 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.

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

Bailey spoke about the Virginia Fire Services Board’s free Fire & EMS studies available to localities to determine departments’ strong and weak points. Nearby Farmville and Cumberland County received fire studies from Bailey in 2018.

Bailey said the forum provided a place where Fire & EMS personnel could gather, share challenges and resources and bring necessary information back to their own departments.
“Hopefully this will be a reoccurring forum that the Commonwealth Regional Council will sponsor every year to bring additional information and potential resources to the volunteer departments that exist throughout Southside Virginia,” Bailey said.

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.
Farmer spoke about recruiting and retaining volunteers. 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.

Bailey said the discussion about the grants was an important component in the forum, both about what to say and what not to say on the application.

“It was a lot of information that was shared that I think potentially will help all the regional players here in being more successful with their organizations,” Bailey said.
Bailey said rather than just stating the facts in a grant application, he said to create a narrative that will catch the reader’s attention right off the bat.

“A lot of people are reviewing a lot of grants,” Bailey said. “In your narrative, you’ve got to capture the person’s attention in the first paragraph about what your needs are and how it can assist your community.”

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