The Vermilion Fire Department had another busy year in 2016. As like in the past, we were faced with many challenges, apparatus and building improvements, equipment upgrades, personnel changes, heavy demands and requirements on training and an unexpected, yet well received audit from ISO (Insurance Services Office).
We have had audits in the past from ISO, most recently 1996 with a rating of 5/9, 2009 with a rating of 4/8b and the latest in November, 2016, with those results coming in early 2017 giving us another improved classification rating of 3/3y.
The classification of 8b to 3y remains the same (3y is equivalent to an 8b), as ISO changed their formula for grading areas farther than 1000 feet from a hydrant but within 5 road miles from a fire station within our primary and contracted jurisdiction. So the 3y is equivalent to the previous 8b classification. However, the classification rating from 4 to 3 within our jurisdiction was an improved rating, which will be beneficial to the residents and businesses within our jurisdiction for insurance premiums. This is something that the City of Vermilion and the Vermilion Fire Department can be very proud of.
Through previous audits, constant review of our responses and guidelines, mutual aid agreements and requests, training, communications, water distribution system and water availability, record keeping, departmental and officer meetings, dispatch capabilities and much more criteria, we have continued to be proactive in learning, maintaining, and even improving our ISO rating for our community.
The primary purpose of this department is to offer the most cost effective, well equipped and trained personnel to provide emergency services to our citizens. Not only having a main focus on citizen and firefighter safety, fire prevention and safety education, our department is continually training and preparing for many new roles and responsibilities, as well as public expectations of the fire service. With fire and building codes always improving and public education, fires still do occur, but the number of fires over the years have significantly decreased. Yet the fire department remains a critical component for almost any emergency situation that arises within our jurisdiction.
Not only do our incidents still include responding to reported structure, room and content, vehicle, uncontrolled and illegal burning, brush and field fires, but we also live in a community where many other factors are creating incidents that this department must be ready for. We live in a community with one of the Great Lakes, the Vermilion River, many small ponds and creeks, two major highways, two sets of railroad tracks, steep hills and ravines and many more, sometimes dangerous obstacles.
Our community also hosts a very high number of community sponsored events including festivals, fireworks, sporting and marine events and an annual triathlon, just to name a few, which all not only bring out vast numbers of people, combined with the abovementioned geographical items create logistical planning and unforeseen emergency incidents. The Vermilion Police and Fire Departments spend countless hours pre-planning for all these locations and events to not only prevent emergency incidents, but also to appropriately respond to and mitigate any emergencies with all of our resources and many more available to us through mutual aid agreements from neighboring agencies to local, state and the federal levels if necessary.
The Vermilion Police and Fire Departments, along with the EMS contracted services of NCEMS have a very good working relationship to be able to preplan, coordinate, respond to and mitigate most any incidents occurring within our jurisdictions.
We are sometimes very fortunate to live in a community that is divided in two different counties, affording us the privilege of having two different, but closely coordinated EMA agencies and directors. We also have separate contracts through both Lorain and Erie counties for HAZMAT and specialized Technical Response Teams.
There was an eighteen percent (18%) increase in our responses from 2015 to 2016 within all of our jurisdiction, including the unincorporated contractual portion of Brownhelm Township. We responded to a total of 248 incidents in 2016 compared to 203 in 2015.
According to the incidents entered into the Firehouse Software for OFIRS (Ohio fire incident reporting system), 218 incident responses occurred within the City of Vermilion Jurisdiction, 16 responses to the contractual portion of Brownhelm Township and 14 were requests for mutual aid from our neighboring departments or specialized technical rescue teams.
The breakdown of the 248 responses is as follows; 131 incident responses were handled by an “All Call” (all available personnel from both stations), 26 responses from station one only, 32 responses from station two only, the CO (carbon monoxide) team responded to 24 CO detector activations and 31 lift assist requests from NCEMS. The remaining four responses were requests for members of the LC Technical Rescue team (LCTRT) members – twice, and the LC Hazmat team members – twice.
Of the 248 incident responses, 70 were requests for lift assists and medical first responders to assist NCEMS. Of those 70, 31 were handled by the CO / lift-assist team (2-3 firefighters), station one only was requested five times, station two was requested twelve times and both stations (all available personnel) were requested twenty-two times.
The average “emergency” incident response times within the city limits was 7.5 minutes. This is the time from pager activation, responding to the station(s), donning PPE and selecting incident specific apparatus and equipment, to the first unit arriving on scene. This time includes all of our “emergency” responses, day and night combined.
The average “emergency” response time to the unincorporated contracted portion of Brownhelm Township was 10.5 minutes. The same response criteria applies as mentioned above for city limit responses. Fifteen of the sixteen responses were “emergency” responses, and the remaining one was of a non-emergency fashion as described in our protocols.
The average number of personnel responding the our incidents were as follows;
All Call – 12, Station #1 – 9, Station #2 – 6, Lift Assist team – 3, CO Team – 3, LC Technical Rescue Team (LCTRT) – 2, and LC Hazmat team members – 2.
Vermilion Fire Department requested mutual aid from neighboring departments five times throughout the year which included Vermilion Township FD – 2, Amherst FD – 2 and Huron FD – 1.
Our department (and / or specialized team members) was requested for mutual aid to neighboring jurisdictions fourteen times which included requests from; Vermilion Township FD – 2, Amherst FD – 3, South Amherst FD – 1, Lorain FD 4 (fire), 1 (hazmat), North Ridgeville FD – 1 (LCTRT members), Wellington FD – 1 (LCTRT members), Spencer Community FD – 1 (LC HAZMAT Team members).
Medical First Responses:
Our department has been running as Medical First Responders (MFR’s) for a few years now. This program is in place to assist our citizens for any additional assistance North Central EMS (NCEMS) crews may need for our community and the unincorporated contractual portion of Brownhelm Township.
The MFR’s are trained to the minimum level of Emergency Medical Responders per the definition through the Ohio Division of EMS. These individuals are governed under our medical director and MFR protocols, which include pre-hospital patient care and working only at the level of our protocols and drug license, no matter the level of their EMS certification. Some of them carry Emergency Medical technician (EMT) certifications and minimally, all of our personnel are trained to the level of Healthcare Provider, which includes adult and child CPR as well as AED and Heimlich maneuvers. Healthcare Provider is the minimum EMS training level required for employment with the Vermilion Fire Department.
This program also acts as an opportunity for our personnel to be prepared for most medical emergencies in the event of a mass casualty situation that may arise where the contracted EMS crew(s) may be overwhelmed with multiple patients or incidents. Our personnel are trained in patient stabilization and prehospital care.
NCEMS and the Vermilion Fire Department have a great working relationship and coordinate efforts to provide the best prehospital care for our community, whether it is just a lift assist, providing manpower to drive their ambulance to a hospital, provide assistance in the back of an ambulance while transporting a patient or patients, or begin prehospital care and/or patient assessment / stabilization until one of their units arrives on scene from any unforeseen delay.
Our personnel are required to keep their certifications current through refresher courses and are also required to read and understand all of our medical protocols. Most of our medical refresher courses are offered through the NCEMS training academy and usually performed in-house, enabling us to keep our personnel readily available for any incident responses.
After the initial purchase of our medical equipment, we are generally re-supplied through NCEMS for any equipment used in the field. Some equipment restocking falls under our obligation since it is our property and can be used on any incident scene we respond to, providing any medical care required by our personnel, for our personnel. Each station has one fire engine that keeps our EMS supplies on it, including an AED. Both stations one and two also have AED’s housed there. Our medical equipment is kept current, up to date and is inspected as required by the manufacturers’ recommendations and used according to our medical protocols.
It is also important to note that NCEMS provides a squad to every one of our incident responses within our jurisdiction if one is available. They will standby on all incidents in the event they are needed for our personnel or the citizens we serve. They may be requested to remain on standby, or may be authorized to leave any scene as requested per the incident commander.
Fire Prevention Bureau (FPB):
The Fire Prevention Bureau is comprised of two divisions, both the prevention bureau, which consists of six CFSI’s (Certified Fire Safety Inspectors) and the Fire Investigation Unit (FIU). The FPB completes fire safety inspections and educational sessions throughout the year while the FIU is tasked with investigating the cause and origin of any and all fires within our jurisdiction. These two entities work hand in hand to help educate not only the public, but also our own personnel on the causes and learned prevention methods of fires.
The FPB completed 58 regular inspections and 22 follow-up inspections throughout the year. All deficiencies found during regular inspections where corrected within the time allotted by the FPB inspectors. The FPB has a primary responsibility of inspecting all occupancies according to the Ohio Fire Code (OFC), and investigating the cause and origin of any fires within our jurisdiction.
Another important responsibility of the FPB is fire safety and prevention education within our community. Education is a key component of reducing the number of fires within our jurisdiction, which in turn saves lives and property.
Our FPB utilized our fire extinguisher training equipment to educate a total of 146 adults and 143 children on the proper selection and use of fire extinguishers. This education took place at several locations throughout our jurisdiction including our local schools, library, Lucy Idol Care Center, Kingston Nursing home and in-house, at our stations.
Along with the fire extinguisher training system, we also kept very busy throughout the year providing public fire safety and prevention classes to nearly 400 people, children and adults. These education opportunities took place throughout the jurisdiction at public outings such as Touch a Truck, festivals and other special events. We also attended Vermilion Elementary School classes, St. Mary school (K – 2), boy and girl scout troops, churches and day care centers as well as Safety Town, hosted by the Vermilion Police Department.
Nearly 100 hours of fire safety, prevention and inspection hours were accumulated throughout the year. It is our intent to provide the most up to date educational resources to our community to prevent injury, death or property loss, which in turn keeps insurance premiums low and provides a positive economic impact on the community.
Fire safety and prevention literature, junior firefighter hats and badges and other fun, interactive, educational and resourceful information was provided to the public at all of the abovementioned events, and is also available by contacting the Vermilion Fire Department at any time.
The CFSI’s must maintain their certifications through continuing education which is made available at many locations throughout nearby counties, across the state and is also available online.
The other division of the FPB is the FIU, which is tasked with determining the cause and origin of any fires within our jurisdiction. There are six members of our department assigned to this team, all of which are members of the Lorain County Association of Fire Investigators. The LCAFI team is available to assist other fire departments in determination of the cause and origin of fires. If our team needs additional manpower or specialized equipment, we will request assistance from this team as well as resources from the State Fire Marshal’s office or the Vermilion Police Department to assist in our investigations.
Of all the fires in or jurisdiction, the FIU followed up on their responsibilities and completed investigations regarding these incidents. We also provided personnel through mutual aid requests for investigators four times throughout the year to neighboring fire departments.
The members of this team attended as many meetings and trainings as possible throughout the year with LCAFI and also had many in-house discussions on our own investigations and investigative techniques.
Information gathered between these two divisions is shared between them and all members of the fire department for the purpose of educating the public, pre-planning specific site responses and fire safety awareness for our entire staff.
Continuous education continues to be not only a requirement for maintaining any state certifications, but also is critical for our personnel to know our own equipment, policies and procedures, personnel expectations, and the ability to know that every firefighter on the force has the exact same knowledge as their fellow firefighters.
Every certification held by our personnel requires a different, and mandatory set number of hours each year, and specific topics to be studied within that certification level. Our department provides every bit of mandatory training as possible in house, using our own personnel and equipment. Sometimes specialized training / continuing education must be obtained from specially trained instructors, which causes us to send personnel out for that con-ed. Many sites we use include; Lorain County Fire Academy, BGSU Regional Fire School, Tri-C, State Fire Academy, EHOVE, as well as many other institutions, including online training sites.
Our in house training officer works with officers and members of the department to schedule training according to needs. We often learn where we need some additional training if we purchase new equipment, haven’t used specific equipment in a while, follow the criteria set forth through the Division of EMS for specific certifications, go into seasons requiring specialized pieces of equipment or joint training sessions are offered through or with other neighboring departments.
Sometimes we are offered acquired structures, which enables us to hone our skills in real time, on real structures, making the training that much more beneficial. Last year we were very pleased to have been contacted by the Vermilion Lagoons Association, offering us the structure formerly known as the “Burley Building” located at the corner of Park Drive and Liberty Avenue before they chose to demolish it. They had offered us this structure for any training we deemed necessary and safe for all of our personnel. We spent many hours inside, outside and on top of this structure utilizing every available piece of equipment, specialized tool and apparatus gaining top-notch, hands on training.
This training opportunity was extremely well received by our personnel from the most seasoned to the newest member of the force. Training was not limited to just use of equipment. We rotated personnel through every level of command and scenario to gain the knowledge and experience necessary for every successful firefighter. Topics taught and learned at this structure included; Incident command, size-up, pre-planning, inspection and investigative techniques, self-rescue, hose deployment and advancement, wall breaching, ventilation, building construction, accountability, rehabilitation, firefighter safety, search and rescue, thermal imaging, ladder selection and placement, rapid intervention, SCBA use, proper use of all our PPE and much more.
Each of our firefighters were afforded nearly 40 hours of training through this donation and opportunity. We are very grateful for the community support we receive throughout the year, each and every year, and for this donation we cannot thank the members of the Vermilion Lagoons Association enough.
As previously mentioned, continuing education is not only mandated, but also necessary to keep our skills honed. The Vermilion Fire Department has scheduled training sessions every Monday (except city holidays) from 10 am – noon and from 7 pm – 9 pm. We also schedule training as needed any time during the week or even on weekends to strive to be the best we can be for our community. Again, this in-house training is designed to allow our personnel to acquire necessary continuing education hours for their certifications. A total of 109.3 continuing education hours was obtained by our personnel through in-house training.
We also take advantage of additional training afforded to us through neighboring departments, Lorain County Fire Chiefs’ Association, Ohio Fire Academy, BGSU Regional Fire School, EHOVE, VFIS, LCAFI, Tri-C and many more organizations and schools.
Through “train the trainer” programs we sent personnel to R.I.T. Solutions in Twinsburg for self-rescue techniques after purchasing new harnesses and bail-out bags for every firefighter to use the bail out kit for self-extrication when faced with imminent danger. A prop was designed and constructed at fire station #2 for all of our personnel to obtain the specialized training necessary for use of the kit prior to being issued. The attendees accumulated a total of 42 hours training and knowledge to be able to come back to present this course to the entire department. This is and will be ongoing training.
We also sent a member of the department to a “train the trainer” program a few years ago offered through VFIS for driver training and instruction. Firefighters originally receive drivers training in their initial fire certification classes and the training continues through this program where everyone that drives our apparatus is required to have continuing education for driving our trucks. This training includes 8 hours of classroom time with a written test requiring a minimum of 70% to pass, a road course where they are taught to be familiar with the apparatus and traffic patterns and an obstacle course where they are graded on eight different stations within a ten minute time period. They go through ongoing education for safely driving our apparatus. In 2016, our personnel accumulated a total of 40 hours of continuous drivers training hours.
Taking advantage of a grant offered to LC fire departments through LEPC (classes and instructors pay only), we sent seven of our personnel to “Blue Card Training” delivered through the Lorain County Fire Academy, which included 50 hours of online training and 36 hours of classroom training, totaling 602 hours. This course is designed for emergency personnel on any incident scene the ability and knowledge to communicate simply and effectively to mitigate the situation utilizing clear, simple and concise communications. This course is a NIMS Type IV and V, Local Qualifications for a Hazard Zone Incident Commander.
Six firefighters attended Regional Fire School in March at BGSU for a variety of classes specific to their needs totaling 84 additional continuing education hours. These classes do not only benefit those in attendance for the weekend, as they come back from school and share their learning experiences with all members of the department.
Six firefighters attended a grain bin rescue course offered by Florence Township FD in 2016 where they received 7 hours of classroom and hands on training techniques. They were also able to bring these lessons learned back to the department and share their new wealth of knowledge on operating safely and effectively in a grain bin rescue.
Members of our department belonging to specialized teams including LC Technical Rescue, LC Hazmat, LC Association of Fire Investigators and Swift Water Rescue accumulated 56 hours of team specific training in those disciplines.
Not only is training and continuing education important
for our state certifications, it is also a grading point for our ISO rating and keeps our personnel familiar with our equipment and personnel.
Buildings, grounds, apparatus and equipment:
Many pieces of equipment were upgraded in 2016 throughout the department. Some of the more significant purchases and upgrades, equipment maintenance and yearly performance tests and decommissioned equipment included the following:
Scott SCBA bottles – 13 (86 “out of service” SCBA bottles were decommissioned)
42 SCBA packs were bench tested and passed (Including RIT packs)
Pagers, Minitor VI – purchased 40 new (programmed)
1 3/4″ Mercedes-Kraken Exo attack hose – 7000′
Personnel fit testing – all passed
Breathing Air Systems – serviced, inspected and air quality tested 4 times
Station backup generators serviced, inspected and station #2 load tested
Replaced two overhead door openers at station #1
New internet cabling installed and exterior lighting replaced at station #1
R.I.T. Systems harnesses and self-rescue packs purchased for every firefighter
All ground ladders tested – all passed – new heat sensor labels installed
All fire hose was tested in-hose to NFPA standards.
Crash Recovery Software renewed – updated
NFPA Membership renewed
In 2016, we ordered 7000′ of Mercedes-Kraken-Exo 1 3/4″ attack hose for the fire trucks. We had very limited backup 1 3/4″ hose to restock the apparatus after significant hose usage after some fire calls. This new attack hose is color coded (red, yellow and blue) for the engines to simplify operations and communications between the truck operators and the fire attack crews to increase safety on the fire scenes. This is especially helpful when multiple trucks and hoses are in use at the same time.
This new hose has some special features such as being highly kink resistant, lightweight and a low friction loss. Another safety feature added to the hose was the “way out couplings”, with directional arrows stamped in the couplings to assist fire crews with finding their way out of structures when they become confused or disoriented.
Members of the Vermilion Fire Department felt these added features would increase safety to our fire personnel and improve service to our community.
We also saw a few improvements in the technology department in 2016. The largest of which was the purchase of 40 new Motorola Minitor VI pagers. These were purchased to replace a very aged and problematic fleet of Minitor V pagers, the bulk of which were originally purchased in 2006. The cost of repairs, coupled with their estimated average service life of 7 – 10 years made purchasing new pagers the more economical choice. A programming module was also obtained for programming and testing pagers in-house before incurring unnecessary service costs. This will save the department money by being able to reprogram as the need arises.
The department continues to advance itself into the future with our various computer and networking projects. Two Lenova laptops, one on Engine 84 and the other on Heavy Rescue 98 contain a program from Moditech called “Crash recovery Systems” (CRS). CRS gives us as first responders a wealth of knowledge about nearly any vehicle built after 1992. With the increasing number and complexity of electrical systems being put into vehicles now, CRS truly could be considered invaluable for firefighter and civilian safety. The program gets manually updated monthly with the most up-to-date information, including all variants available for specific models, any high voltage risks to the first responders and special instructions and precautions to take. Along with having CRS on them, the laptops will also be the first part in the next step in the departments’ implementation of Mobile Data Terminals, or MDT’s.
The fire department owns two Sensit Gold G2 4-gas monitors that allow us to both monitor ambient air quality conditions and detect the presence of specific gases. The gas monitors also include a feature that gives us the ability to zero-in on a potential source of the specified leak. Their sensors are calibrated every 30 days provided they are not exposed to their extreme limits, at which point they are inspected and calibrated, or replaced all together if found to be deficient. Vermilion Fire Department has a member that is certified to change the sensors, pump and various other components of these monitors if the need were to arise.
Many issues arose during 2016 requiring most of our apparatus to be serviced and/or inspected by a vehicle technician from Finley Fire. As the trucks age and begin to show signs of wear and tear, the vehicles begin to run into costly repairs.
2016 proved to be a costly year for repairs. Many large scale issues developed that were not able to be repaired in-house due to their complexity. Many of our trucks have newer, computerized systems on them which require special training to repair. Some of the repairs required upgrades to the particular systems or components that have become obsolete. In order to make most of these repairs, we contracted a vehicle technician to review every truck, provide detailed information regarding the necessary repairs, have any necessary parts ordered and schedule time for the trucks / components / parts to be repaired.
Minor vehicle maintenance can be done in-house, but major, intricate components must be contracted for repair either on site or at a repair facility, depending on the issue. Our Chief Engineer is tasked with maintaining and inspecting all of our apparatus and completing minor repairs / concerns if possible, and qualified. A more detailed log sheet has been created to document every single repair or inspection of our apparatus and equipment.
All of the fire engine pumps were tested in cooperation with Vermilion Township Chief and Finley Fire Equipment at the Townships’ station. All but one, our reserve engine #80 (housed at station #3) passed their pump tests. Engine 80 had a vacuum leak which would not allow it to pass the testing process. The truck has since been repaired, it is currently awaiting pump testing. This truck is still in service.
On a separate note, the age restriction ordinance for “maximum age of a newly appointed firefighter” has been rescinded, and now we are able to hire based on the ability to pass all pre-employment requirements without age restrictions. The youngest age for employment consideration is 18, and a high school graduate or equivalent.