Proposed addition of a paid
firefighter/EMT II position
By Kevin C. Murphy
January 13, 2007
I have been following the recent discussions regarding the proposed
addition of a paid firefighter/EMT II position for Ketchikan's
North Tongass Fire Department (NTFD). As a person who spent
the majority of his adult life (thus far) in the fire service,
I would like to offer comment on what may become a contentious
I would first like to commend and thank all of the people who
have helped establish the NTFD as a functional provider of emergency
services. It should be kept in mind that as an organization,
the NTFD is still developing, but as a service provider it is
expected to perform at a very high level of service.
After the residents of North Tongass voted to form a fire and
EMS service district, a few (very few) interested individuals
came together to form the nucleus of an organization that has
since grown just a bit in numbers, but has nonetheless evolved
into a well trained and dedicated group. The overwhelming majority
of that group is classified as volunteers. There are currently
only two full-time, paid positions.
There have been many growing pains for this fledgling organization.
During their first year of existence, a tremendous amount of
money and energy was expended without the benefit of a sound
strategic plan. To my recollection there was never an adequate
needs analysis undertaken to determine what level of fire protection
and emergency medical service the residents of North Tongass
desired. And understand this: Different levels of service have
different associated costs. The lack of good strategic planning
has hugely increased the cost of establishing and operating the
Regardless of inadequate planning and fiscal mistakes, there
is now a functional emergency service department that is capable
of responding to the needs of residents and visitors of the North
Tongass Service Area. The members of NTFD have earned, and deserve
to be shown, respect and support for their efforts.
I have considerable respect for Ed Fry as an emergency services
provider. Mr. Fry's experience, education, and dedication to
the industry are to be commended. I agree with the majority
of his views published in this forum, especially those that encourage
people to make INFORMED decisions. Based on my experience, his
interpretation of the ISO rating system is dead on. Adding one
paid firefighter to the staff may not directly improve the ISO
rating for the area. But the work that the firefighter accomplishes
throughout the year might improve the chances of a beneficial
rating. The extra position may mean that tasks like annual fire
hose testing, annual ladder testing, required equipment maintenance,
and training are accomplished. These are all factors in the
ISO rating system. To base the decision of whether to hire an
additional firefighter solely on the possibility of an improved
ISO rating would be a mistake, in my opinion. ISO is a service
that not all insurance companies subscribe to. Property owners
in the area should ask their insurance carriers a couple of key
questions. #1 Does the company utilize the ISO rating system
to determine rates for the policy held? #2 If the ISO rating
system is used, what net savings would the policy holder gain
by an improvement in ISO rating of 1 point, or 2 points? I think
most people would find that the savings are fairly small for
residential policy holders. Commercial property owners may see
a more significant savings. Ask the questions, get it in writing,
and get informed.
Property owners need to ask the administration of the NTFD to
provide hard numbers and justification for the proposed increase
in taxes. I m sure they have a reason, let them state it, let
them provide documentation that justifies the request for additional
personnel. Ask what method the department will use to evaluate
the effectiveness and benefit of the additional position. If
there isn t an improved level of service provided, or significant
savings in insurance rates, will the position be eliminated?
How will those benchmarks be measured? Make informed choices.
In closing, I would like to offer some thoughts regarding the
support that the NTFD deserves. This organization exists to
serve the needs of the people that pay for the service. That
is the cold hard fact. Most people that make that 911 call for
assistance don't have any idea how much money, time, and effort
is required to provide the equipment and personnel that show
up when Mrs. Smith is having a bad day. All they care about
is that someone comes when they call, as fast as possible, and
can solve whatever problem they're having. Oh yeah, and they
really don't want to pay too much to have that service available
Two paid positions cannot provide the desired level of service.
Three paid positions cannot provide the desired level of service.
To achieve a reasonable level of service to the North Tongass
area, it takes the hard work and dedication of many people.
Without the men and women who have stepped forward to participate
as volunteers and paid staff, there would be no NTFD. It doesn't
matter how many shiny red fire trucks or ambulances are parked
in the barn, without people to maintain them and operate them,
they're of no use to anyone. These people give their valuable
time to be of service to their neighbors, they deserve your support.
Ask how you can support this organization. Do you want to volunteer
5, 10, or 20 hours a week to attend training, work on the fire
stations or equipment? Do you want to be rousted out of your
nice warm bed at 0-dark-thirty on a rainy night to help a stranger
that is having the worst day of their life? Or would you prefer
to show your support by quietly providing a few more dollars
in the form of a tax increase. Dollars that will allow those
neighbors that are willing to give of themselves, the tools and
means to provide that important service nobody wants to pay for,
until they have to make that 911 call.
Happy New Year!
Kevin C. Murphy
New Braunfels, TX
Received January 11, 2007 - Published January 13, 2007
About: "Over 25 years
in the fire service as a volunteer and a paid firefighter in
Note: Comments published
on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.
Send A Letter -------Read
E-mail the Editor at
Stories In The News