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International Firefighters’ Day

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Today May 4th we celebrate International Firefighters’ Day. It is a day we can remember the past firefighters who have given the ultimate sacrifice while serving their community or dedicated their lives to protecting the citizens they served. We also show our support, and appreciation to the firefighters who continue to protect us daily.

Loudoun County has over 1000 firefighters and EMS providers who dedicate their time to serving the citizens and visitors of Loudoun County. If you are interested in joining them as a Firefighter, EMT, Paramedic, or a Support Services Member please contact us!

“The role of a firefighter in today’s society – be it urban, rural, natural environment, volunteer, career, industrial, defence force, aviation, motor sport, or other is one of dedication, commitment and sacrifice – no matter what country we reside and work in. In the fire service we fight together against one common enemy – fire – no matter what country we come from, what uniform we wear or what language we speak.”
– Lt JJ Edmondson, 1999

Loudoun County Paves the Way!

LOUDOUN COUNTY PAVES THE WAY: CODE OF VIRGINIA AMENDED TO IMPROVE BEHAVIORAL HEALTH BENEFITS FOR VOLUNTEER FIRE AND RESCUE PERSONNEL

By Karen McQuaid, Volunteer Manager, and Christine Langley-Obaugh, Executive Liaison, Loudoun County Fire and Rescue

Fire and EMS personnel are often exposed to scenes of terrible tragedy, the images of which are imprinted into their long-term memories. Firefighters and EMTs are not immune to the same physiological responses to exposure to trauma that everyone else experiences. The difference is that such dedicated individuals choose to accept this as a byproduct of placing service above self.

In Loudoun County (VA), fire and rescue services are provided to nearly 400,000 residents though an integrated volunteer and career service identified as the Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System (LC-CFRS). The System is comprised of 15 member volunteer agencies with over 800 active responders and a corresponding compliment of career personnel numbering approximately 500. In the summer of 2013, career and volunteer responders handled two particularly challenging calls within a matter of weeks. The first entailed a local high school student that was abandoned by her friends after a night of drinking, resulting in her death. In the second, a beloved member of the LC-CFRS chose to take his own life. Two lives tragically lost. The impact upon the community and the Fire and Rescue System was substantial.

Loudoun County has long been on the forefront of supporting volunteer services and is only one of two government entities in the Commonwealth of Virginia that extend worker’s compensation benefits to all of its volunteer fire and EMS personnel. Tragically, as was learned in 2013, the extension of certain benefits, including Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits, where members could access behavioral health support, was actually prohibited by state law. At that time, according to the Code of Virginia, EAP was considered a health and wellness program. Further, fire and rescue volunteers were not eligible to participate under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Beginning in the 1980s, the LC-CFRS established and utilized a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team, but it had recently disbanded as alterative models for providing support to emergency services personnel moved to the forefront. At the cross-roads of shifting away from CISM and towards another model, LC-CFRS found itself unprepared to provide appropriate behavioral health support for its more than 800 volunteer members.

Chief of the System W. Keith Brower, Jr., who has been a member for over 40 years, saw the need to remove the legislative barrier as an imperative. “Not being able to provide our emergency responders, whether career or volunteer, the resources to deal with the emotional stressors being placed on them on a daily basis is an injustice … and we can fix it,” he said.

The process began to modify the Code of Virginia to allow municipalities the ability to provide volunteer emergency responders with EAPs inclusive of mental health counseling. Garnering full support from the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, Chief Brower sought legislation to amend the Code of Virginia. During the 2016 General Assembly Session, Senate Bill 79 and House Bill 233 (companion bills) were passed and signed into law by Governor Terry McAuliffe effective July 1, 2016. This legislation contained the following verbiage:
“…allows any locality to fund the cost of a volunteer’s participation in mental health treatment and counseling program that is offered to individual members of approved volunteer fire or rescue companies and is comparable to an employee assistance program offered to paid employees of the locality.”

On September 6, 2016 the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to extend the county’s current behavioral health contract to include active LC-CFRS volunteer personnel. All members of the LC-CFRS, as well as their family members living in the same household, now benefit from the County’s contracted EAP agents, including a behavioral health clinician with extensive knowledge in serving fire and EMS personnel. Dodie Gill, LPC, a behavioral health specialist with over 25 years of experience working with fire and EMS personnel and a team member of Lytle EAP Services, shares: “The traumatic exposures our first responders experience have a physical impact on the body and brain. To mitigate symptoms related to these exposures, we provide education and techniques to manage these symptoms to enhance their quality of life. We honor the work of our emergency responders and are committed to serving them.” It is pertinent to note that EAPs provide a plethora of assistance with personal or job-related problems, including marital, family, financial, work/life, emotional, stress, drug or alcohol abuse, and problems related to work or volunteering.

Senator Jennifer Wexton, a patron of the legislation, emphasized, “Mental health services are critical for our first responders, and I was proud to carry legislation last year that expanded these services for our volunteers. Our volunteers deal with the same emergencies and crises that our career personnel do, and having coverage for both will allow us to ensure the wellness and safety of all our first responders.”

Brad Quin, Chair of the Administrative Operations Committee and President of Purcellville Volunteer Fire Company, noted, “The members of the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Company (and all volunteers) are delighted to have this benefit. Previously, these services were unavailable unless the volunteer companies paid for the service themselves. System Chief Brower’s personal dedication to securing this benefit for volunteers goes a long way to demonstrate the commitment to volunteers in our combined system.”

Loudoun County is honored to have had the opportunity to lead the effort which culminated in the extension of significant benefits to its members and we are hopeful that additional jurisdictions can follow suit. In fact, a recent survey indicates four Virginia Fire-EMS agencies have obtained, and several are working towards, locality support to provide the critical behavioral health counseling to their members.

The success of this effort underscores the importance of having effective long-term relationships with legislators at the local and the state level. The changes that occurred could not have been achieved without the support of, and regular interaction with, elected officials. Additionally, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet has been an ardent advocate for the combination system, always seeking opportunities to ensure inclusiveness, cooperation, and support.

Link to the article can be found here: http://www.nvfc.org/loudoun-county-paves-the-way-code-of-virginia-amended-to-improve-behavioral-health-benefits-for-volunteer-fire-and-rescue-personnel/

Spring Open Houses!

Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Sunday May 7th 12:00-3:45
Station 6: 20688 Ashburn Road, Ashburn, VA 20147
The members of Ashburn Volunteer Fire and Rescue welcome you to their Annual Spring Open House on Sunday, May 7th. Grab your passport and get it stamped at the different kid’s safety stations: Stranger Danger, Call 911, Water Safety, Accident Prevention and School Bus Safety. Get your passport stamped at 4 of the 5 stations and get a prize! Also enjoy the food court, Lego station, moon bounce, and raffle opportunities. Off-site parking at Cedar Lane Elementary. For more information visit http://www.ashburnfirerescue.org

Purcellville Volunteer Rescue Squad, Saturday May 13th, 11:00-3:00
Purcellville Public Safety Center: 500 N. Maple Ave, Purcellville VA 20132
Come celebrate Purcellville Public Safety day and check out ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars. Lots of informational displays to see, kids activities, and food! Don’t forget to take a tour of the safety center! Celebrating in collaboration with Purcellville Volunteer Fire Company, and Purcellville Police Department. www.purcellvillerescue.org

Loudoun County Volunteer Rescue Squad, Saturday May 20th, 12:00-4:00
Station 13: 143 Catoctin Circle SE, Leesburg, VA 20177
Looking for a fun, educational and FREE family-friendly activity? Come visit the Loudoun County Volunteer Rescue Squad Open House on Saturday, May 20, from 12 to 4 p.m. Check out an ambulance and a fire truck, meet a K9 bomb detection dog, get fingerprinted, learn about first aid and CPR, tour the station, have some food, play some games, and maybe win one of several gift cards or other prizes being raffled every half hour! Parking is in the gravel lot next to the skate park. The Open House is free and will be held rain or shine. Call 703-777-7185 or email info@lcvrs.org for more information.
Sterling Volunteer Rescue Squad, Saturday May 20th, 10:00-2:30
Dulles Town Center; 21100 Dulles Town Circle, Sterling VA 20166
Join the members of Sterling Volunteer Rescue Squad as they celebrate EMS week. Stop by to see how Sterling Rescue is “EMS Strong: Always in Service.” Activities include: Touch-A-Truck, adult and kid safety presentations, take a ride in an ambulance, pose for a picture with Paramedic Panda, learn hands only CPR, and practice calling 911. For more information visit http://www.sterlingrescue.org
Round Hill Volunteer Fire and Rescue, Saturday May 27th, 11:30-4:30
Station 4: 4 Main Street, Round Hill, VA 20141
Round Hill Volunteer Fire and Rescue are proud to take part of Round Hill Hometown Festival Days on Saturday, May 27th. The members will open their doors to the public from 11:30am to 4:00pm for a fun filled day of interactive activities for the entire family. Come meet Sparky the Fire Dog, dress up as a junior EMT or Firefighter, practice calling 911. Live demonstrations will be happening throughout the event. For more information visit http://www.roundhillvfd.org and http://www.hometownfestival.org

Hamilton Volunteer Rescue Squad, Saturday June 3rd.
Station 17: 39071 E Colonial Hwy, Hamilton, VA 20158
Hamilton Volunteer Rescue Squad will host their annual Open house in conjunction with Hamilton Days. The members will open their doors to the public for tours and activities. Come meet Sparky the Fire Dog, EMT Teddy, and little ones can dress up as a Junior Firefighter. http://www.hamiltonrescue.org

Recruitment and Retention Workshop

On Saturday March 25th Volunteer Programs along with The Recruitment and Retention Committee hosted a day of R&R (Recruitment and Retention). The morning session was led by national speakers David Tesh, Volunteer Recruitment and Retention Officer for Chesterfield Fire and EMS, and Chief Bianco of the City of Virginia Beach Department of EMS presented Keeping the Best: How to use EMS Retention Principles. This is an engaging training that is focused on way to improve retention efforts for fire and rescue departments. Ways to create an enthusiastic work environment, boost member’s self-esteem, and provide meaningful activates, and personal development were all discussed. Four key principles were presented: The Life-Cycle Principle, The Belonging Principle, The Success Principle, and The Friends and Family Principle. Attendees were encouraged to share struggles they were currently facing in their departments and as a group issues were addressed, suggestions made, and plans of action were created. Updates on recruitment and retention, and resources available were provided by IAFC, VSFA, OEMS. The afternoon session started with a discussion panel of Bobby Hill, Recruitment Coordinator for the Virginia Beach Rescue Squad Foundation, Tom LaBell, Division Chief, Albemarle Count Fire and Rescue, Ricardo Tappan, Recruitment and Retention Officer, Montgomery County MD Volunteer Fire and Rescue. A question and answer session lead to a lively discussion on recruitment and retention, problems and successes departments were having.  We hosted over 50 people from 3 states for a successful day of Recruitment and Retention training, and networking.

Fall Open Houses

Thank you to everyone that came out and visited us at our Open Houses this month. We love meeting the members the communities we serve. We hope you had fun touring our stations, climbing on our firetrucks, learning about fire safety, putting out fires, and meeting Sparky!

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Don’t forget to check your smoke alarm. They need to be replaced 10 years from the manufacture date. For more information visit: https://www.loudoun.gov/index.aspx?nid=819

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Fall Classes Kick Off

Fall Classes are underway at the Training Center! 29 EMT students, 21 EMR students, 12 Firefighters, and 22 Intermediate students are well on their way! All our training is FREE! To find out how you can be in our next class and to see what volunteering can do to OPEN NEW DOORS for you contact us at Lauren.Hartman@loudoun.gov or call/text 571-442-2801

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