For the first time, a consortium of Wilson County fire service providers met Tuesday to talk about how better to communicate, share services, lower ISO ratings, train volunteers and better serve the county overall.
Leaders of Wilson County's four fire departments met for several hours at the inaugural powwow held at the Wilson Emergency Management Training Center in Lebanon.
Wilson Emergency Management Agency Director Joey Cooper organized the meeting that was attended also by Fire Department of Mt. Juliet Interim Chief Jamie Luffman, Lebanon Fire Department
Chief Chris Dowell and Watertown Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Jewell, along with the departments' command staff.
"We all work for the same people," Cooper said. "Whether it's in the city or county."
Chief of the county's newest department, Luffman said, "We are proud to be here and have 18 months under our belt."
FDMJ was opened Sept. 20, 2013 and Cooper was named LFD chief about that time as well.
Cooper gave a detailed update on county emergency services with information about supply exchange, continued education and the updated MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), which was signed by the current leaders. The last one was signed by former WEMA director Jewell and former FDMJ Chief Erron Kinney.
Cooper reviewed calls of service numbers from last year, noting with growth they will continue to increase.
"In 2004 we had 10,000 calls," said Cooper. "Now we are over 16,000 calls, and we are growing."
He said total calls in the county were 16,059. Of those, 10,856 were medical, 766 fire and 4,437 rescue. Because of the increase in calls, the leaders spoke at length about cooperation and partnership between agencies.
"There's been an open line of communication," Dowell said. "It's been good. We are crossing bridges that we thought we'd never cross. We need to figure out what resources you have as well."
LPD could add volunteer force
Dowell noted the new Lebanon Fire Department initiative that may bring on a volunteer force, similar to FDMJ's.
"How do you do it, with volunteers?" he asked.
FDMJ's Volunteer Division Chief Shawn Donovan shared some general information about his 35 member volunteer force. They all agreed volunteers do the job "because they love it."
"They love the rush; they work it everyday and all the time," Jewell said, whose Watertown department is all volunteer. "Volunteers don't burn out, they rot out."
"You started from the ground up," Dowell said. "We've been doing this, this way, for 30 to 40 years. Whether you are a volunteer or paid, we do it because we love it."
Dowell said the meeting was extremely informative.
"I wanted to get some idea how to do the programs," Dowell said, referring to starting a volunteer program. "I'm here to learn and see how I can benefit from them."
Opening lines of communication in best interest of all citizens
Cooper said there "are a lot of advantages enhancing the communication between departments.
"It's progress, especially in response to the number of citizens we have," he said. "We are their first line of defense."
Luffman noted the meeting was a long time coming.
"I think we have folks in the right position in leadership, and we are united in services we provide," he said. "This was to show citizens emergency services can get together from Statesville to Mt. Juliet. We may cross jurisdictional boundaries, but we can be the best of the best with a shared vision for citizens.
Those in attendance said they planned on continuing the meetings in the future.
Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.