OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Fire Department (OCFD) gave an update this week and, for some items, further presentations will be scheduled in the near future to return to the Mayor and City Council for an approved course of action.
Fire Chief Chris Larmore started off his presentation reporting the department’s new fire boat is coming along well. The fire department anticipates having between six to eight operators fully trained by the time the vessel is ready for service, which should be about mid-July. He added that a temporary storage site has been found at 1111 St. Louis Avenue at no cost. There is an ongoing study to determine the permanent location but the department feels it is important to have the boat close to headquarters in the first year of its operation.
A new fire engine was put on display on Tuesday. The engine is the last of four new engines that was decided to be purchased a number of years ago.
“To have a consistency actually marks a milestone for the fire department,” Larmore said. “We have never had four front line pieces of equipment exactly the same. But at the same time I recognize that in the challenging times we are in both to the public, the council, and our employees, was it really the right thing to do put a fire engine on display and I would like to take a minute to go back and see where it came from and where we’re going.”
The chief reminded the council that an apparatus replacement schedule was put into effect a few years ago by the Mayor and City Council following an effort that consolidated six fire engines to four, which was a reduction of 33 percent. An evaluation of response calls was also conducted and the department was able to reduce equipment on the road by 50 percent on an average call.
“We had planned, both the fire company and the Mayor and City Council, some 18 years ago to work toward a long-term replacement schedule,” Larmore explained. “I know we all have to be very cognitive of perceptions when we see new equipment, when we decided to change the equipment it is a result of a significant savings and also improved efficiency.”
The four new fire engines are also paramedic engines because they carry paramedic equipment, rescue equipment, surf rescue equipment, and extrication tools.
The chief used an example the serious accident that occurred in the north end of town in December to demonstrate how the new engines are more efficient for emergency situations.
“We had one piece of equipment and limited personnel that were actually able to extricate two patients, put out a vehicle fire, and administer medical needs in less than 12 minutes and that is a remarkable feat,” he said. “The point I am trying to make is as we go forward with a short- and long-term plan we are purchasing new equipment but we looked long term on how we can be more efficient with some of that equipment and the four engines you allowed us to purchase was a big step in that direction.”
In continuing the department’s efforts, a long-term plan for replacing equipment has been completed and will be presented to the council in the near future.
In gathering information for the schedule, the chief was surprised to learn that there was no replacement schedule for items such as ambulances and contained breathing apparatus.
“What I have done is tasked individuals who will look at any expense of a significant nature and do a report internally and externally to bring to the Mayor and City Council a long-term plan,” he said. “I am pleased to say all that is complete and now we can hypothetically give a budget 5, 10 and 20 years out.”
The OCFD call volume in 2011 was a little under 6,000 calls, which was about 70 calls short of 2010. However, the department’s transports to hospitals were up as were number of calls from the north end of town which has been increasing for the last 10 years. Also, the average response time has remained to be 4 minutes and 11 seconds.
“I don’t know that if there are many municipalities anywhere that can attest to that type of response time,” Larmore said.
Currently, Larmore told the council the fire department is under an Insurance Services Offices (ISO) Audit.
According to Larmore, the ISO is the most recognized independent company that insurance companies look to for various ratings.
“Last time we had an audit of this magnitude was about 18 years ago,” he said.
The chief explained that 50 percent of the rating is a result of items such as equipment, staffing and training.
“We have high hopes that we will actually see a better rating, which is something that all of the citizenry and business people will benefit from,” he said. “This is about a six-month process and at that end of the six months they will meet with us and if there are any improvements to be made rest assured that we are going to do that. It is actually a process that we look forward to.”