Moore County Commissioners Nick Picerno and Otis Ritter have been assigned the task of further refining a proposal for a new Fire Commission to oversee the county's fire, rescue and EMS organizations.
Public Safety Director Bryan Phillips presented the proposal, developed by the Public Safety Department in consultation with the Fire Chiefs Association, during the Board of Commissioners Tuesday, May 20 regular meeting. If enacted, it would create a commissioner-appointed board to replace the Emergency Services Advisory Committee [ESAC], which was disbanded earlier this year.
A recent comprehensive study conducted by the consulting firm VFIS recommended the creation of a fire commission as a step toward standardizing and unifying the county's fire and EMS services.
The role of the panel, as Phillips detailed it, is primarily to review and make recommendations to the commissioners in areas affecting fire, rescue, and EMS, including operating and capital budgets, volunteer retention and recruitment, fire protection system improvements, operational regulations and guidelines, and training standards.
Phillips proposed a commission with nine voting members, one alternate, and four non-voting members drawn from the Public Safety staff.
Five citizen members would be drawn from each of the county's commissioner districts, while four fire service members would be drawn from each of four fire service regions. The President of the Moore County Firefighter's Association would serve as an ex officio member, but also as an alternate if one of the fire service representatives is unable to attend a meeting.
The Public Safety Director, Fire Marshal, and E-911 manager would serve as non-voting members.
Phillips said the commission would help achieve some of the recommendations from the VFIS study, including:
• Standardization across districts, which helps improve interoperability and efficiency;
• Long range planning for equipment, apparatus and personnel; and
• A simplified budgeting process.
Need to move quickly . . . but not too quickly
County Manager Wayne Vest told the commissioners that the panel needs to be up and running by Fall in order to have an impact on the FY2016 budget process.
"Everything that happens happens in the budget," Commissioner Randy Saunders said. "We need to get it going if we are going to get it into next year's budget."
"We are convinced that this is the best way to go," Chairman Caddell said. "But I don't want to see it be a political thing. I want us to think through this."
"This is too important to rush in to," said Commissioner Otis Ritter, who chaired ESAC for twenty years. Noting that Phillips had suggested that commission members serve two year terms, Ritter added, "That bothers me. Once these people learn enough to know what's going on, then it switches the board out."
Caddell asked Picerno and Ritter to take charge of fine-tuning the recommendations.
CPR Save Awards
The Commissioners' Tuesday meeting began with recognition of Moore County EMS employees and first responder agencies — in particular those who have successfully used CPR to save a life.
Public Safety Director Phillips noted that some agencies award "CPR Save" recognitions whenever a patient survives long enough to be admitted at a hospital. But Moore County's standard for the award requires that the patient must survive long enough to be released from the hospital.
Phillips offered some data on the effectiveness of Moore County's efforts to return cardiac arrest victims to a normal, productive life.
In Moore County, 29.7 percent of cardiac arrest patients survive to hospital admission, versus 27 percent statewide and 27.5 percent nationally. Survival to hospital discharge is 14.9 percent in Moore County, compared to 10.7 percent statewide and 10.6 percent nationally.
Sixteen first responders from across the county were given the "CPR Saves" award for incidents that took place from May 2013 to April 2014.