OCEAN CITY – The town’s fire and emergency services took on the official name of the Ocean City Fire Department this week, after the City Council voted unanimously to accept the recommendation at a work session.
The town’s fire services, which include the Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company, Fire Marshal’s Office and Emergency Services, were merged in a memorandum of understanding 60 days ago, following several months of turmoil. All three divisions were merged under the direction of town Fire Chief Chris Larmore, who presented the Mayor and Council with an update on the state of the now aptly named Ocean City Fire Department.
The name choice came as a recommendation from a committee of 11 volunteer and career EMS/firefighters. Larmore noted that 40 years ago, Ocean City’s finest were bearing the same name on their badges.
After months of negotiations over the fate of the town’s fire services, which culminated with a two-day meeting of the minds and the ultimate decision to merge all divisions under one chief, Larmore was pleased to report this week that plans and goals are moving forward smoothly for all affected parties.
“I’m very pleased to report that there’s an overwhelming consensus that we are going in the right direction,” he said.
Larmore presented the Mayor and Council with a list of long- and short-term goals, all of which maintain time frames, many with considerations for budget planning.
“They’re very optimistic goals and they’re very optimistic time frames,” said Larmore.
For the fire department, safety remains the top priority. Lt. Eric Peterson developed a detailed safety assessment report, which will be presented to the Mayor and Council, along with a complete plan and specific dates, in October.
A short-term goal that has been achieved is the streamlining of the standard operating guidelines. Combining standard operating guidelines for volunteer and paid members has remained a priority.
“We have merged the two of those, we have one document for all personnel,” reported Larmore.
Another short-term goal with high priority continues to be the recruitment and retention of volunteers. Two assistant chiefs have been tasked with evaluating the satisfaction of active members as well as potential routes for the future, including rewards and incentives.
Establishing job descriptions for the fire chief and three division chiefs was an initial priority after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Larmore reporting that those job descriptions would be ready for council approval on Aug. 15.
While the merging of the three divisions under one name has been achieved, other areas of merging still need to be addressed, such as uniforms, equipment labeling and budgets, explained Larmore. A November timeframe has been set to achieve this goal, with consideration for budget planning.
“There is no right or wrong way of doing that, it’s unique to each organization,” explained Larmore. “I recommend a committee of our own people to do that because they are the ones who would be most affected.”
Apparatus is another short-term objective on the horizon.
“We have fallen behind in the replacement of some large apparatus,” explained Larmore, adding that three engines are in need of repair. A request to bid the apparatus is being submitted to the Mayor and Council.
Another short-term goal includes the revision of the current response guidelines.
“That is something that we will be revisiting in the fall. It’s becoming more and more prudent to look at the cost of our apparatus,” said Larmore, outlining more efficient ways to restructure response guidelines.
Some of the long-term goals include the development of a fire chief office, false alarm reductions, data management and building expansions.
The council applauded Larmore on the presentation and the updates, which will continue throughout the remainder of the year.