Fire & EMS forum held

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) representatives throughout the region held a forum recently to discuss challenges and solutions for firefighters and EMS providers.

The forum, held at the Farmville Fire Department at 1000 W. Third St. in Farmville on Feb. 26, was organized by the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC). The CRC recently issued a survey to classify the needs Fire & EMS departments are facing following concerns faced by various CRC members of dwindling volunteer numbers and resources facing these departments.

CRC Executive Director Melody Foster moderated the forum. Panelists and speakers included T. Wayne Hoover, of Lunenburg, who was a grant reviewer for the national Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), Farmville Fire Department Chief Dean Farmer, Linwood Pulling and Luke Parker with the Virginia Office of EMS and Walter Bailey with the Virginia Fire Services Board and Chief of the Phenix Volunteer Fire Department.

“Each of them I considered an expert in a certain field,” Foster said.

Foster said the forum was a way to connect Fire & EMS personnel around the region with resources, as many face similar challenges. Foster said there were also flyers available at the forum for Fire & EMS personnel to take with them.

While there was a small audience, Foster said the event was productive.

“There were a lot of good questions and discussion,” Foster said, noting interaction between panelists and audience members.

Foster said Hoover spoke about his experience reviewing grants for the national program and the dos and don’ts for applying for the AFG. This includes making grants stand out by sharing compelling information about the department, its challenges and how it raises funds.

“That’s a pretty big program,” Foster said. “To have someone locally who has served as a grant reviewer for that program was pretty exceptional.”

Foster said the CRC met with Hoover previously to get insight into the grant application process.

Foster said she instantly thought of Hoover when considering panel speakers for the forum.

Hoover said he had the opportunity to review grants for AFG last year, spending a week in Anniston, Alabama, where he and others evaluated grants from fire and rescue stations.

Hoover said it was a positive experience.

“It gave me a lot of insight into hopefully how to help people from Southside Virginia,” Hoover said.

He said the key for grants is to make sure they stand out and to avoid complete conformity.

“Tell the story about your organization,” Hoover said. “How you do fundraising, the tough times that you’re having. What I found (is that) grants that used, for lack of a better term, boilerplate information were usually graded lower. The grant committee has to look at so many throughout the week, you have to have something to make yours stand out.”

Foster said Bailey spoke about the Virginia Fire Services Board’s free Fire & EMS studies available to localities to determine departments’ strong and weak points. Farmer spoke about recruiting and retaining volunteers. Pulling and Parker spoke about the Rescue Squad Assistance Fund (RSAF), a grant that provides services to rescue squads that is available twice a year. The next application deadline is Sept. 15.

Foster said the CRC is planning to potentially hold the Fire & EMS forum annually.