Firefighters in Jerome Township are in training, both body and mind and tightening their belts at the same time.
At Monday’s meeting of the Jerome Township Board of Trustees, Fire Chief Bill Stewart reported on 2017 accomplishments. Steward was hired in June to replace long-time fire chief Scott Skeldon.
“I think (the) chief is doing a really good job,” said trustee Ron Rhodes. “There were some things that needed to be looked at. That’s not to knock anyone else, but he came in fresh and was able to do that.”
Rhodes said Stewart is, “looking out for the future growth of the township and for our finances.”
Stewart reported that by renegotiating the trash, telephone, cell phone and Internet contracts, the fire department will save a minimum of $930 per month.
Stewart said he took the same approach at the department that he takes at his own home. He said he doesn’t mind paying for appropriate services, but does not want to overpay or to pay for services he does not use.
“We did a review of all our expenditures,” Stewart said.
He used the example of unused wireless cards at the department. Stewart said those cards were canceled. He is looking into other wireless options and if some of the cards become necessary, they will be turned on.
“We are just trying to evaluate,” Stewart said, adding that problems will be addressed as they arise.
The chief credited Lt. Brian Bemiller, who served as interim chief between Skeldon and Stewart. Bemiller began the review process before Stewart arrived.
Stewart said he has looked at utilities and will begin evaluating vendors who are not part of the state-pricing bid.
“This is not accomplishments I’ve done,” Stewart explained. “This is accomplishments the firefighters and I have accomplished together.”
He said he also wants to help officers reach other accomplishments. Stewart has instituted mandatory physical training (PT) and education for all officers on duty.
Stewart said fire fighters are required to complete an hour of PT each shift.
“It is really up to the individual,” Stewart said.
He said some firefighters choose to lift weights, some to do cardio training, some to do cross fit training.
“They can walk around the station for an hour if they want,” Stewart said. “They can do whatever, just do something to get moving, just something to get them working out and ready to respond.”
He added that part of the most recent union contract is a physical component and a health assessment.
“We want to be able to reduce any negative risk factors we can reduce and part of that is mandatory PT,” Stewart said.
The chief admitted that change can be difficult but said the idea of PT has been accepted “very well.”
He has also instituted an education plan. He said officers are now required to do two hours of training or drills each shift.
He said all fulltime officers have been enrolled in a continuing education program that allows them to take classes at their schedule.
Additionally, three officers and three firefighters have been enrolled in an incident command training program. Stewart said the program teaches officers to take effective command of an emergency scene. He said in the past it was impossible to know if a firefighter or officer was ready for incident command until a situation arose. The training program offers 50 hours of online training coupled with 24 hours of “hands-on simulation.”
Participants in the program may take as long as a year to complete, though Stewart is pushing to have his squad through in half that time so he can prepare them for the simulation portion.
Once this group completes the program, other full-time officers will go through the training. Part-time officers will also receive some modified form of the training.
Stewart said having trained officers allows him to attend to other things and to better take advantage of down time.
The chief said that having a well trained, well-educated, physically fit department is good for the community. He said insurance rating organizations look at the local fire department.
“These are our tax payers and if this can save the taxpayers some on their insurance rates, I think they will appreciate it,” Stewart said.
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