Coordinating volunteers comes at cost Full-time WESA position under consideration

By on March 28, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Fire companies and ambulance crews need more volunteers.

That news flash is nothing new. But how does it get done? That question is the dilemma municipalities in the Warwick School District currently face, and the latest suggestion is to pay someone to coordinate the effort.

While administrators for the Warwick Emergency Services Alliance (WESA) — which includes fire companies and ambulance crews in Lititz, Rothsville, Brunnerville and Brickerville — have been paid as part-time positions in the past, dwindling volunteer rosters and the prospect of an emergency services tax if the situation doesn’t improve have prompted government officials to seriously consider a full-time salaried employee to focus on recruitment and retention.

If created, the cost of such a position would be shared by the three municipalities involved — Lititz Borough, Warwick and Elizabeth townships. The prospect was discussed most recently by the Warwick Township supervisors during their March 21 meeting.

A fire services study conducted by WESA recommends the full-time position, and while the member companies appear to be in agreement with that recommendation, the position cannot be created without the financial support of the three local governments.

Consideration, at this time, is preliminary.

Such a coordinator would help the four independent fire companies work together by standardizing policies, sharing equipment and realizing cost savings through joint purchasing power. The concept, in essence, is efficiency through regionalization, a trend most recently demonstrated in the consolidated police efforts of Warwick, Penn and Clay townships.

Back to WESA, this coordinator, if created, would also play a key role in driving fund-raising efforts and increasing volunteerism for each participating organization.

One area where volunteers are sorely needed is fire police, which are officers who direct traffic and secure dangerous areas during emergency situations. So dire has volunteerism in this arena become that the Lititz Fire Co. recently disbanded its (fire police) force and the borough is now looking to facilitate the service through paid positions.

"The bottom line is we are going to have to hire a full-time position," said township supervisor Herb Flosdorf. "This would be a shared cost."

Flosdorf pointed out that emergency response times are very good for the region, usually only taking approximately seven minutes until the first crews are on site. But, while response times remain strong, he added that more volunteers are needed because crews first on the scene often do not contain enough to effectively deal with the situation. It usually takes a second or third crew to arrive, which could take longer than the seven minutes, he explained.

Supervisor David Kramer then made the point that cross-training and cross-utilization of volunteers would be made easier if equipment used by all four fire companies were as standardized as possible.

Township business manager Dan Zimmerman highlighted the degree to which cooperation between the departments has evolved.

"There has been a more positive shift toward improving shared info and resources," he said. "Creating standard operating procedures will take time to sort out, but the commitment is the next big step."

Flosdorf said the WESA coordinator position would not be that of a fire marshal, but more of a role in which one could work with all involved parties to help the companies collectively move forward.

"This is pretty front-burner to have these things fall into place," chimed supervisors chairman Logan Myers, suggesting a sense of urgency.

Flosdorf agreed.

"This will be a significant amount of money, which has not been expended in the past, but it is necessary," he said. "Our recommendation would be someone from the military, with maybe even some fire experience. It is now pretty unanimous among the fire companies that we need to create this position." More WESA, page A3

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