OCEAN CITY – Ocean City Fire Department (OCFD) officials presented the Mayor and City Council this week with end-of-the-year updates on the department and the water rescue dive team.
“We are very fortunate enough to look back and say we had a very busy and safe 2010,” Fire Chief Chris Larmore said.
During the summer of 2010, EMS calls were up 13.2 percent and fire calls were up 3.4 percent. The good news was that the average response time improved by four minutes and 10 seconds, according to Larmore.
“There are very few places in the country that can max that,” Larmore said. “So we are very proud of that.”
Larmore reported that the call volume was up over 30 percent in West Ocean City over the entire 12 months.
“That is something that is going to require some additional planning in the future,” Larmore said.
The OCFD revised its operations in preparation of the department’s reduction in labor. According to Larmore, the department reduced the need to send multiple units to serious calls and quickly depleted available resources.
Volunteer duty crews work over 9,000 hours of coverage, an average of seven personnel a night and work in 12-hour shifts.
“I am very pleased to report once again they have done a great job for us,” Larmore said.
Larmore said that the Fire Marshal Division is the “diamond in the ruff.” He said the division had 95 fire investigations and 77 bomb squad responses in 2010.
“They have done an exceptional job for us in 2010 as they always have,” Larmore said.
The Carbon Monoxide Program, which was started in August of 2009, inspected 32,000 units and 29,835 of those units were in compliance.
“That is a 93-percent compliance rate,” Larmore said. “Since that program was instituted, other departments and jurisdictions have contacted Ocean City because we were at the forefront of that program.”
Larmore said that four years ago the cadet program had been reduced to an attendance of three members. Now the program is maxed out at 25 cadets.
“This is in indicator of where the department and the town are going,” Larmore said.
Larmore reviewed the OCFD’s 2011 goals and initiatives.
“I can’t thank everybody enough for what they did in 2010 but we still have work to do,” Larmore said.
The department will continue to work on facility maintenance and upgrades. For example, the West Ocean City Keyser Point Road Station is near completion, there are ongoing renovations of the headquarters station and a future expansion of the northern station.
The department is looking to recruit and retain career officers and volunteers.
“To guarantee to replace the people that are going to retire, and to replace the volunteers who choose to make this part of their career,” Larmore said.
The accountability system is about 90 percent complete. The program allows the monitoring of officers and their response time to incidents.
“In years to come, we can look at the time period of any call and identify how long it took to get people to that call,” Larmore said. “To set a standard that is acceptable to us.”
The OCFD looks forward to continuing the integration of volunteer and career components.
“Integration has come a long way,” Larmore said.
He explained that the department has worked to train career officers and volunteer officers to meet the same standards.
Second Lieutenant Delbert Baker presented the Mayor and City Council with the progress the OCFD Water Rescue Team has made, which includes rescue swimmers, divers, and boat operations.
According to Baker, a dive team was established in Ocean City prior to 1993 but was dismantled due to the town’s insurance coverage.
After 2003’s local drowning tragedies of Sammy Wilkinson in the pond at Northside Park and Angelo Russo’s scuba diving accident off the shore of Ocean City, the water rescue team was re-organized.
“It was clear that something needed to be done,” Baker said.
Last year, there were 111 water rescues and searches and 44 boat and dive team responses.
The purpose of the dive team is to conduct underwater searches for missing swimmers and boaters as well as assist Ocean City police with underwater evidence collections, assist United States Coast Guard (USCG) with offshore emergencies and search submerged vehicles for victims.
Due to the nature of the area, the OCFD has been training for ice water emergencies this winter.
“Our team is certainly working in the right direction,” Baker said.
Council President Jim Hall thanked Larmore and Baker for their presentations.
“We are all very proud of you, the fire company and the volunteers,” he said. “Keep up the good work and thank God you are here.”