Chief John Whisenant
It has been three and a half years since I was hired as the Beaver Lake Fire Department’s fourth fulltime fire chief. While leading this department has been a true highlight of my career, equally so is my ten years of service to the Beaver Lake community. As many of you know I have had the privilege to serve as a volunteer for many years before being selected as your current fire chief. Throughout my time at Beaver Lake Fire Department (BLFD) I have been impressed with the support of our community. In the summer of 2017 our community once again showed how much value you place in public safety by supporting a fire dues increase. Some may have heard as I did, that the fire dues increase would not pass. These comments came primarily from those outside our community, our citizens in a record turnout and with a 2/3 margin supported our plans for continued improvement of public safety and the BLFD. For your trust in the men and women of the BLFD I offer my sincere thanks.
Your fire department is making remarkable strides improving public safety in our community. In January of 2018 BLFD, through a co-operative partnership with Mercy Health, began offering Advanced Life Support (ALS) ambulance service to our community. This locally based ambulance service (stationed at our Beaver Shores station) means shorter response time to your medical emergencies. This ambulance is staffed both by BLFD and Mercy personnel 24 hours a day seven days a week. BLFD also has a part-time firefighter/emt at our grimes drive station twelve hours a day seven days a week. You can also find me, your fire chief, at the grimes drive fire station Monday-Friday during normal business hours. We round out our staffing model with a part-time Deputy Fire Chief, and our dedicated volunteer firefighters.
We were contacted by the Insurance Service Office (ISO) and informed that May 1st our community’s Public Protection Classification (PPC) had improved to a Class 4. Since the leadership of Ret. Chief Andy Jaeger along with the community elected board of directors, our PPC classification has steadily improved. On the surface, the improvement to a Class 4 means some more money in the pockets of our homeowners whose insurance companies utilize the ISO grading scale to set rates. I would offer as your fire chief, our new rating is much more than just dollars saved. First, our new rating is proof that we strive to keep our promises. Our community was a class 6 for ten years and it took careful planning by our board of directors and our dedicated firefighters to make this significant improvement. While we are not a government entity, we provide services often linked to government operations. BLFD wants to be known for keeping our word to the public when we ask for your support, this new PPC rating is solid proof of that.
Every community wrestles with how to improve ISO and look to make point in any way possible. BLFD used a focused and strategic approach utilizing local and regional training opportunities to better understand the ins and outs of the PPC grading criteria. The balance with the PPC is to show on paper what level of service you are capable of, but far more important to you and your family’s safety is what we can actually deliver. No amount of fire engines, or buildings emblazed with our logo do any good if they do not have people at the ready to answer your emergency. For this very reason it is so important to have our combination staffing model to ensure there are people always at the ready to answer your call for help. Staffing in the fire house allows for shorter response times, but also equates to three volunteers for every personnel in the station by ISO grading standards. While idle fire stations and equipment do no good, personnel are only as good as the training they receive to prepare them for your time of need. BLFD is committed to enhancing our training programs to ensure the best trained individuals reach you in a timely manner.
You have probably heard me say in various public meetings I simply wish to meet the minimum national standards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) give us a framework to understand how many personnel are needed for the various types of emergencies we respond to. BLFD will continue working to meet these standards engaging our community for the support necessary to achieve the safest, fastest, well equipped and trained emergency response force our community deserves.
Most fire chiefs would say they could use more funding; I am one of those fire chiefs. I believe in fiscal responsibility when administering the funds you allow us to have. We will utilize every dollar you give us to improve the delivery of services we provide to you in your time of need. We will continue to engage you to ensure we are meeting your expectations and for further support as each year we answer more and more 911 calls.
In closing I want to recognize the men and women of the Beaver Lake Fire Department. The improvements that have been made have been made by a group of dedicated and professional emergency responders. Together with your elected board of directors each step forward is but a reflection of teamwork, a team I am humbled to be a part of.
Fire Chief, Beaver Lake Fire Department