Green Valley Fire District Wins 2012 Fire Corps Award of Excellence
Fire Corps and the International Fire Service Training Association/Fire Protection Publications (IFSTA/FPP) are pleased to announce that the Green Valley Fire District (GVFD) in Green Valley, AZ, has been selected as the 2012 Fire Corps Award of Excellence winner! Honorable mentions were given to the Sun City West Fire District (AZ) and the Layton City Fire Department (UT).
Sponsored by IFSTA/FPP, the Award of Excellence annually honors a Fire Corps program whose remarkable achievements in the fire and emergency services and the community exemplify outstanding performance. Representatives from the GVFD will attend the upcoming Fire Corps National Advisory Committee (NAC) meeting near Washington, DC, to receive their award and present their program’s accomplishments. The NAC, which consists of representatives from nearly every major fire and emergency service organization across the U.S., provides valuable input and guidance to Fire Corps.
“The GVFD is an exceptional program,” said Mike Wieder, FPP Associate Director and IFSTA Executive Director. “We are excited to have their representatives attend the meeting to inform the NAC of all their hard work and accomplishments, and also to share this model program with others looking to start or enhance their Fire Corps initiatives.”
About the GVFD
Established in 1975, the GVFD is located thirty miles south of Tucson and provides a wide variety of protection and emergency services to a suburban and rural area of more than 40,000 constituents. Originally serving a primarily senior population, the GVFD’s 40-square-mile area now encompasses a more diverse population that includes young professionals and families within Green Valley and portions of the Town of Sahuarita. The GVFD operates out of five stations covering both residential and commercial areas and maintains optimum response times.
The GVFD enjoys a good relationship with its District residents, which has been established over many years through effective, highly responsive services and community interaction.
About the GVFD Fire Corps Program
The GVFD Fire Corps was established in late 2006 with 11 initial members. The program has grown tremendously since then and now includes over 50 members who provide vital services for the District and community.
During the past year, the GVFD Fire Corps supplemented their regular 30-hour new member training program by adding an on-the-job training component to identify job responsibilities to members earlier and allow members to get any necessary certifications much sooner. To bolster recruitment efforts even further, the GVFD Fire Corps sends their Public Information Team to attend many of the over 70 homeowner association meetings in the area to spread the word about the role of the Fire Corps and seek prospective new members.
In the past year, the District formed a Fire Corps Steering Committee which meets monthly and includes Fire Corps officers who act much like a board of directors. They also added a shift duty officer who is available to deal with complex issues arising during day-to-day Fire Corps shifts. Finally, in order to maintain effective support and communication, they established a Fire Corps Leadership Team made of selected Fire Corps officers and Executive Management staff from the Fire District.
The members of the Green Valley Fire Corp are divided into two categories – Field Operations Volunteers and Administrative Volunteers.
Field Operations Volunteers work in two person crews for two five-hour shifts six days each week. Additional shifts have been added that specialize entirely in smoke alarm battery changes and lock box installations. These volunteers:
* Install and maintain reflective pavement markers for 1,987 fire hydrants in the District to allow easy location when responding to emergencies. They also regularly clear the hydrants of brush, cactus, and debris to assure accessibility
* Respond to non-emergency situations when customers dial 911 or a non-emergency number for assistance. These situations include ‘chirping’ smoke alarms and other smoke alarm problems, removal and relocation of desert pests (mostly venomous snakes), and other miscellaneous problems such as water leaks
* Using a specialized crew, install residential safe-entry lock boxes so that emergency responders have immediate access to premises avoiding forcible entry (pictured right). These lock boxes provide a critical component of delivering prompt care for the residents who live alone and may either fall or have a life-threatening event
* Administer the Smoke Alarm Battery Replacement program where, for a nominal charge, they automatically replace all smoke alarm batteries annually for enrolled customers
* Make regular inter-departmental mail deliveries to and from five stations and the post office
* Deliver needed supplies to firefighters during complex incidents such as major structure fires, gas line breaks, and hazardous materials calls
* Conduct complete home safety checks as part of the Safety and Health in Motion Program (SHiM). This fall prevention and care management program works through a partnership between the District and two other local agencies. Fire Corps members complete the safety check while a volunteer nurse assesses health concerns and a handyman service can be scheduled to make improvements to mitigate potential fall situations
* Perform miscellaneous duties that free up firefighters and staff for higher priority tasks. These include moving equipment and supplies between stations, interchanging of oxygen bottles and SCBA tanks, repairing apparatus lights, posting public notices, preparing detailed maps of the District, providing photograph coverage, making ID badges for all Fire District employees and volunteers, producing and maintaining pictorial directories for all stations, and various miscellaneous errands
Administration Volunteers help to:
* Staff the reception desk at the headquarters building during normal working hours and receive guests, direct incoming phone calls, perform filing, generate reports, and perform other secretarial duties
* Maintain and update the Fire District web site
* Maintain several District databases as well as training records for firefighters, staff, and Fire Corps volunteers
* Schedule appointments, prepare the materials to be used, and make customer contacts for the smoke alarm battery replacement and lock box installation programs
* Assist in the preparation of Fire District data and information delivered to the District’s board members monthly
About their Services
Smoke Alarms – The Fire District receives an annual average of 500 assistance calls for smoke alarm problems – mostly ‘chirping’ alarms. Fire Corps members handle about half of these calls. They also have approximately 1,500 customers participating in their smoke alarm battery replacement program. Since the program provides scheduled battery replacement, it results in increased protection for the customer and fewer ‘chirping’ smoke alarm calls for the District.
Pest Removal – One very popular activity is the desert pest removal service in which Fire Corps members remove and relocate unwanted desert pests for area residents. These pests are primarily Gila monsters and snakes, including the very common western diamond back rattlesnake. Fire Corps members handled nearly 600 of the over 1,500 requests the District received for snake removals last year.
Hydrants – A survey was recently completed of the District’s 1,987 hydrants. The results indicate that the Fire Corps members will be replacing or installing markers at about 200 locations in 2012 – work previously performed by firefighters.
Lock Boxes – Fire Corps members have installed 1,200 lock boxes in the community since the program started and continue to install roughly ten each week. This popular program allows responders immediate access to the premises in an emergency.
SHiM Program – The Safety and Health in Motion Program (SHiM) program was established in 2010 through a partnership with Valley Assistance Services, Inc. and the Green Valley Council’s Volunteer Clearinghouse. This fall prevention and care management program has been very well received. In fact, this past March, the program was presented at the Aging in America conference in Washington, DC, and was praised by the CDC among others as being both innovative and effective. Fire Corps members who work on SHiM have already made more than one hundred home visits to participating seniors. The recommendations made by Fire Corps have resulted in not only increased smoke alarm and lock box installations and other safety improvements, such a bath treads and rug modifications, but now ninety percent of the visited seniors are using reach sticks and night lights.
Fundraisers – This year, the inaugural GVFD Fire Corps pancake breakfast raised $2,000. This complements other existing fund raising events to support both the program and the District. They also partnered with the local Rotary Clubs in the past to raise $25,000 for the purchase of an open bed pick-up truck for use by the Fire Corps team.
Station Inspections – Fire Corps established a facilities checklist for the firefighters to use during monthly building inspections of the five stations.
Web Maintenance – A Fire Corps member has been trained to maintain the District’s web site, which is an effective source of safety and other information for the community.
About the Impact
The GVFD Fire Corps team has made major inroads to relieve the firefighters of their non-operational duties so that they are now more available for emergency calls, training and study, equipment and vehicle maintenance, and other critical functions. Last year alone, Fire Corps members logged 9,200 hours of work. This represents the equivalent of almost five full-time paid positions to perform the responsibilities now taken care of by the Fire Corps. The value of this contribution is estimated to be a minimum of $185,000 based on the suggested value of volunteer work.
Furthermore, the Fire Corps team has handled an average of four dispatched assistance calls daily (such as smoke alarm problems and desert pest removal), which would otherwise interrupt essential firefighter duties. Additional relief has resulted from the other services such as mail deliveries, moving of supplies, hydrant area maintenance, etc. Likewise, the Fire Corps members have assumed many of the administrative support responsibilities for the District.
Overall, the GVFD Fire Corps program has added valuable assistance and increased the public’s perception of the customer service provided by the District. “We are very proud of the contributions that Fire Corps has made to our department” says Division Chief Chuck Wunder, who helped start the program six years ago. “These men and women take great pride in serving our community and have really made a significant impact on our operations. In addition, it’s great to have members of our community who have such a strong understanding of our mission and goals. These volunteers are great advocates for our department and spread the word about all the good things happening in our organization.”
Congratulations to the Green Valley Fire District – its Fire Corps members, leaders, and residents – for your remarkable program. Learn more about the GVFD at http://www.gvfire.org/.