Friday, January 27, 2006
Fire Department asks for Internet, clerical help in FY07 budget
Five blasts of the fire horn means Station Coverage — Personnel Needed, and Fire Chief Dave Flannery sounded the verbal equivalent to the Finance Committee (FinCom) at their January 18 meeting. "Our guideline budget of $252,763 represents an increase of $10,412 over the 2006 budget," said Flannery. Included in the increase is $6,151 for wages (3.5% guideline), $835 for non-wage items (2% guideline), $1,929 for a 50% increase in heat cost, $897 for a 30% increase in fuel cost, and $600 for a 10% increase in electricity cost. The ambulance is included in these guideline budget numbers.
Part-time clerical help sought
Flannery went on to make a case in his "Growth Budget" wish list for secretarial/clerical help for the department. "The department currently has no support in this area and no availability of office hours for the public," he informed the FinCom. "Clerical help is essential to support me due to my limited hours." The fire chief position is part-time, and Flannery also works as Building and Grounds Supervisor for the Carlisle Public School.
"The [Fire] Department is currently struggling and there can be no further growth without clerical help," said Flannery. This initiative would provide for administrative support approximately ten hours a week at an annual cost of $10,000.
When asked for specific areas where clerical help might be needed, Flannery noted that the department employs 28 call personnel, responds to an average of 350 calls a year, processes over 150 reports for ambulance billing, processes vendor bills for payment every two weeks, produces a payroll every three months, processes over 120 applications for inspections and permits each year, maintains databases for personnel, property locations, the open burning registry and incident reports. In addition they have two essential policy and procedure manuals, one for the fire department and one for the communications center that are constantly being updated.
"We respond to 10 to 15 requests each week for information from the general public including insurance companies, contractors, developers, vendors and citizens," said Flannery. "In addition we maintain permit application copies that are made available at Town Hall in the Building Inspector's office." This year, the department is administering four grants, two state, one federal and one private. "We also review and comment on two to four housing developments each year," he added.
There is work to be done on integrating the national incident management (NIMS) requirements into policies and standard operating guidelines of the department and to make necessary changes to all policies and procedures. And finally, support for the officers in training activities — typing procedures, training session notes, guidelines and training outlines, etc.
The department is required by law to maintain the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) for the town, which needs to be updated on a regular basis. The department also maintains detailed training records for all fire department personnel. Maintenance records for their apparatus and equipment, as well as for their almost three dozen cisterns, are also part of the department's responsibilities.
Internet access needs
The department has no Internet service, yet the Internet is required for interfacing with a growing list of state and federal agencies. For instance, the Internet is needed for filing of all incident reports as required by the state and federal government. The Department of Homeland Security requires grant application and administration be done entirely online. Information to prevent or respond to terrorist attacks is also shared via the Internet.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) now requires that the Town's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP) be maintained and updated using a web-based program. In addition, the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) requires Internet access also. The National Fire Protection Association now has the availability of a web-based service to access codes and standards for members.
New statewide treatment protocols for EMT's are now in a web-based program provided by the Office of Emergency Medical Services. The state no longer prints and sends copies of these protocols which are several hundred pages.
Lastly, federally mandated training for all emergency personnel in the National Incident Management (NIMS) protocols is only available online. "Without Internet service, which would cost about $1,500 annually, the Carlisle Fire Department cannot continue to fulfill its responsibilities and obligations as a public safety agency," said Flannery.
EMT stipend funding
This is year-three of the previously approved three year EMT certification stipend and Flannery would like an additional $6,000 over and above the guideline budget to fund it. The 12 regular EMTs would then receive an annual stipend of $1,500 per year for a total of $18,000 in FY07.
In another new state-mandated expense to go into effect next year, the department will be required to have medical control, a new layer of supervision and training by an outside medical director for Carlisle's ambulance service. Flannery anticipates that Emerson Hospital will provide the town's medical control at a cost of $1,500 annually.
Thornton Ash, chair of the FinCom, hoped that Flannery's clerical help might be shared with other boards such as the Zoning Board of Appeals, who are also requesting such help. FinCom members were generally supportive of the fire department's "growth budget," but will wait until all budget requests are received before they allocate additional funding.
© 2006 The