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Board of Supervisors Chairman Bob Warren shares his concerns about an agency admitting to cherrypicking calls from a frequent flyer and explains the details of the new agency funding structure.
I want to start by saying that I wholeheartedly support the Fire and Rescue Association, the Fire and Rescue Commission, and each of the individual volunteer agencies in Pittsylvania County. I recently spoke to the Pittsylvania County Fire and Rescue Commission about what I believe to be an egregious misstep by one of our departments. A chief admitted that his agency chose not to respond to the call of a frequent flyer, instead allowing County Public Safety staff to handle the call.
Choosing not to respond to any 911 caller, even if they call frequently or with things that wouldn’t be considered an emergency, is not an approach I can tolerate. As the Board of Supervisors, our number one charge is the safety and welfare of our citizens, which is why this matter concerns me so greatly and why I believe this is a prime example of the need for county-wide ethics standards for fire and rescue.
When responding to a medical emergency, every minute, and every second even, is critical. So, when an agency decides that it would rather not respond to a caller, who may be having a medical emergency, that forces Pittsylvania County Public Safety staff to travel to the patient from further away, increasing the response time. If this caller had been experiencing a real medical emergency, those extra minutes could have been the difference between life and death.
While Pittsylvania County Public Safety and our agencies absolutely should be working together to help connect frequent callers with the resources they need so that they don’t call as often, it is outright dangerous to assume that someone does not need emergency service when they call 911. This could have a negative impact on the caller, but also on the agency and Pittsylvania County as a whole – particularly in terms of liability. The Fire and Rescue Commission has been charged with developing ethical standards for all volunteer agencies, and those standards will certainly deal with the appropriate response to frequent callers. The Fire and Rescue Commission will also keep working with our agencies and Public Safety staff to ensure that frequent flyers are given the support and resources that they need.
I also addressed the Fire and Rescue Commission regarding the misinformation that Pittsylvania County is cutting funding to many of our agencies. The truth of the matter is that Pittsylvania County has increased volunteer funding by more than 75% in the past few years, but for the upcoming year we restructured how those funds are allocated. To make it as fair as we could, the amount of funding an agency receives is now based on call volume.
Most agencies saw at least some increase, but several agencies are set to see declines under this new structure, and each of those declines are for a simple reason:
All Pittsylvania County agencies, including those that saw minimal reductions, are slated to receive a county contribution of at least 50% more than they did under the 2017 budget. The Board of Supervisors is committed to supporting our volunteer agencies as much as possible. Those agencies that were reduced also have the ability to apply to the Fire Commission to gain access to the Public Safety emergency funds if they are needed.