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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

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        The Northwood Fire Department received an $11,000 grant for regional Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Program, which is a branch of the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) Program, to conduct a study of fire/EMS operations.

        The grant is from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and is in partnership with the Lake Township and Rossford Fire departments. Matching funds are not required for this grant.

        “Ohio firefighters and first-responders work every day to protect our families,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, who recently announced the grant award. “We must support our first responder organizations so that communities like Northwood have the resources to shield families and homes from fire hazards.”

        Resource Management Consultants, who assisted with the grant writing, will be facilitating the study.

       

Working together

        “I am very happy that we were able to secure this grant, and think that the residents of Northwood, Rossford & Lake Township should be excited for this opportunity,” said Northwood Mayor Ed Schimmel. “I frequently hear at TMACOG meetings that all of the government entities in Northwest Ohio want to work together, but we rarely know where to start. This SAFER grant is a starting point. The fire departments in our area all do a great job protecting our lives, and responding to calls throughout our cities and townships, due to our mutual aid agreements. Unfortunately, they are under an extreme amount of stress as volunteers, who only have so much time to give.”

        The study, he added, which will be completed at no cost to residents, “is a step towards working together in our region to reduce overall costs of each entity involved, ease the tax burden on taxpayers, expand coverage and provide even better services for the residents in our community.”

        According to FEMA, the SAFER grant was created to provide funding directly to fire departments to help them increase or maintain the number of trained “front line” firefighters available in their communities. The goal of SAFER is to enhance the local fire departments’ abilities to comply with staffing, response and controlling costs.

       

Regional district

        Northwood City Administrator Bob Anderson said the study will look at several options available to the three communities, including the feasibility of a regional fire district.

        “Rather than each of us operating independently with our own emergency systems, it might be easier to at least look at what it could mean if we got together. The study would show how we would benefit and what the drawbacks might be,” he said. “We’ve been talking about doing this regionally for a long time.”

        Northwood Fire Chief Joel Whitmore said that the fire department consists of 40 part-time paid volunteers.

        Lake Township Administrator and Police Chief Mark Hummer agreed that the study will look at all the options available to improve the fire department’s operations.

        “Each of our fire departments having a $1 million aerial ladder truck may not make sense anymore,” said Hummer. “They are not used often, but when they’re needed, they’re needed. I just think we need to start looking at doing things a little bit different.”

        Regionalization, he said, “is certainly one of the options.”

        “The study will look at how we can best use our resources and our monies to serve our citizens. We’re all having trouble – the smaller departments with volunteers – filling those ranks anymore. There aren’t as many volunteer firefighters available, and there are more training requirements. And the call volume continues to go up. Most of that – 80 percent – are rescue runs. So this is part of the big picture, which may get even bigger. Or it may get smaller, or stay the same. But regionalization will certainly be something that needs to be looked at.”

        The township is large at 36 square miles. “We try to keep our response times six minutes or under for EMS. And that’s on the first call. We have a lot of back to back calls. When we try to field a second ambulance or rely on mutual aid from an adjoining agency, it will kick that response time to 10-12 minutes. When you’re waiting for help that’s a long time,” said Hummer.

        He has talked to Oregon City Administrator Mike Beazley to share ideas on how to improve fire department operations, he said.

        “I think we need to look at all our options, including talking to the big players like Oregon and even Toledo. I don’t think anything is off the table at this point, as far as giving the best service we can, with the resources we have available. And the study is just a part of that,” said Hummer.

       

       

       

       

 

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