Firehouse Subs awarded West Manatee Fire Rescue a $9,207 grant to purchase search and rescue equipment for the district’s 30 firefighters, 30 reservists and two vehicles.
WMFR firefighter and emergency management technician Jeff Philips displayed a sample bailout pouch at the Nov. 15 WMFR commission meeting.
Philips learned of the grant opportunity while surfing the web, he said. And, with WMFR firefighter/paramedic Buddy Bowen, he identified the particular lightweight equipment to purchase from surveying other such bailout-kits.
Philips said the lightweight equipment, including rope, pulleys, hooks and carabineers, is designed to assist rescue personnel in extricating victims from tight quarters.
Sixty pouches for WMFR personnel and two bailout kits with more sophisticated devices for the ladder truck and battalion vehicle have been ordered.
According to WMFR Fire Chief Andy Price the equipment ties into the district’s ladder training.
In other business, Price announced WMFR has maintained its 3 rating from the Insurance Services Office, a widely used company that monitors insurance laws and standards.
“We finally got information from the ISO that our rating will remain the same,” he said.
The district prepared for and underwent ISO testing, including a site visit, earlier this year. The rating is reviewed every 10 years or less, if requested by an agency, he said.
ISO rates communities from 1-10, with 1 being perfect, based on quality of fire department, water supply, hydrant locations, communication systems, building codes and inspection programs. Insurance companies use the ratings to set insurance premiums.
Price said the district “maxed out on points for communication,” was “close to max in water supply, but was not getting all the points from the fire” categories. He blamed it on a lack of staffing.
The district’s three firefighters per station are less than other departments covering similar communities, he added.
Commissioners discussed whether the district could save money with a better insurance rate if it increased personnel. Price estimated it would cost $1.2 million annually for an additional 10 firefighters to increase its rating from 3-2, and not likely justified by a reduction in insurance costs.
“It’s not bad news,” said Commission Chair Randy Cooper. “It is what it is.”
Price also recommended a $15,000-$20,000 Commission on Fire Accreditation International accreditation study while the district plans for his and Deputy Chief Brett Pollock’s retirement.
Price said the district had previously considered the accreditation process too time-consuming and costly. However, he said, the CFA has a new stream-lined process and he’s determined many accreditation requirements already have been satisfied by the district.
The testing will “validate and measure the district’s capability and effectiveness,” and the district will “gain a clearer picture of what we do,” Price said.
Cooper said, “I’m all in favor. But I think it’s best for the public to get a handle on the costs.”
Commissioner Scott Ricci objected to being presented with the proposal without prior explanation.
Commissioner David Bishop favored the concept as a tool in the succession planning, adding he saw value in a process that would cost approximately $4,000 for the next five years.
Price said he’d prepare and present a formal cost breakdown at the next meeting.
Before adjourning, commissioners thanked retiring Commission Jesse Davis for his 20 years on the commission.
The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, at the WMFR Administrative office, 6417 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.