Lion’s Club hears from Jamie Earp with DCFR

Published 9:22 am Thursday, March 10, 2022

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Thanks to the efforts of the Decatur County Fire Rescue squad, citizens in Decatur County are well protected from numerous hazards by layers of trained responders. Assistant Chief Jamie Earp told the Bainbridge Lions about numerous initiatives that have been undertaken by leaders in the Decatur County Fire Rescue (DCFR) team, so that the squad and affiliates are better able to respond to emergencies. Assistant Chief Earp told of many operations that go beyond the common ideas of “basic response to a fire alarm” paid for by taxpayer dollars.

To encourage community engagement, DCFR has become a Regional Training Center. Under that credential, DCFR provides EMT training at no cost to the student; DCFR is paid to provide the EMT training under the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The DCFR has provided training to more than 50 students in two years, with a pass rate of 92%; currently, there are 93 incoming students. Operating under the Georgia Fire Standards and Training Counsel, DCFR provides a complete training program, including instructors, evaluators, and proctor/monitors. These programs are all in house, and are available to any city or county. These trained individuals are able to help fill the gap in emergency services personnel.

Funding from AFG has also been an important contribution to major equipment purchases, including $350,000 for a new pumper that is up to current standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The DCFR crew maintains a fleet of 27 vehicles, ready to respond at all times. More than $50,000 was utilized to upgrade the extrication equipment and replace the hydraulic operation with a battery-powered system. This allows the equipment to be utilized in remote locations where access to the hydraulic support system would be difficult or impossible.

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Frequently, emergency workers face risk due to smoke and other hazardous materials, so self-contained breathing apparatus constitutes critical equipment. DCFR has been able to purchase up-to-date lightweight equipment that meets or exceeds NFPA standards, thanks to a grant of $500,000 from AFG. An additional grant of $20,000 has provided a machine that refills the cylinders in the field where an emergency is located, so that response to the situation can continue as long as needed without interruption. This system provides air of sufficient high quality that the system can be used in under water diving.

Because fire and rescue personnel must function as first responders, they frequently enter a situation where disruptive individuals present a serious threat to everyone. The AFG provided $7,800 to fund purchase of six bullet-proof vests in order to mitigate the risk associated with dangerous activities of that nature. Smaller grants, including grants from community partners, have been used to purchase personal protective clothing, training manuals, a rescue manikin, and several items of computer equipment needed to maintain communication including remote operations. The DCFR team is committed to keeping skills sharp and up-to-date. They train in a variety of situations, including some that might not be routine for Decatur County. For example, team members have participated in training for water and under-water rescue procedures offered in Gulf Coast locations. Squad members are prepared to respond to a boat on fire, for example.

In order to maintain quality of response and procedure, a review is conducted after each incident response, so that any opportunity for improvement is not overlooked. Citizens of Decatur County can be confident that the crew members of the county’s fire rescue squad are well prepared to protect life and property whenever skilled intervention is needed.