Ky. fire dept. considers lowering application age

Individuals who want to become a paid firefighter with the Glasgow Fire Department may soon be able to apply when they are 18 years old

By Melinda Overstreet
Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW, Ky. — Individuals who want to become a paid firefighter with the Glasgow Fire Department may soon be able to apply when they are 18 years old, rather than waiting until they turn 21.

GFD Chief Bryan Marr said Monday at a meeting of the Glasgow Common Council Public Safety Committee that he's been discussing the possibility at department head meetings and with others.

Individuals who want to become a paid firefighter with the Glasgow Fire Department may soon be able to apply when they are 18 years old. (Photo/GFD)
Individuals who want to become a paid firefighter with the Glasgow Fire Department may soon be able to apply when they are 18 years old. (Photo/GFD)

“As far as the state is concerned, 18 years old is the age to [be able to] become a firefighter, whether that's volunteer, paid or any branch of the service,” he said.

He hadn't been able to find any information on why Glasgow goes the route of deferring to age 21, but most paid departments around Glasgow have reduced their minimum age to 18, he said.

Councilman Wendell Honeycutt, the committee chair, suggested he check into insurance requirements, and Marr and Mayor Dick Doty both said they had and there were no issues there, as long as the firefighters get the proper training.

He said a firefighter has to be on the job at least a year before he or she can even test to be able to become a relief driver for a fire truck on the road in an emergency.

Councilman Greg Harris asked what steps they needed to take to make this change, and Doty said he believed no official action from the council was required, “it's just been a standard practice.”

Marr said the age minimum is on the website and application forms, so that would simply have to be removed. It's not in the job description, he said.

Honeycutt, who used to chair the Personnel Policy Committee, suggested Marr may want to provide that group with just a courtesy notice of his recommendation, even though no action was required of them.

“We still have the application process,” Marr said, “and if we view an 18-year-old who still acts like a kid, they're probably not going to get a shot at being a professional firefighter.”

No action items were on the agenda for the meeting – just departmental updates from the three public safety-related departments.

Glasgow Police Department Chief Guy Howie reported that on Oct. 5, the Kentucky League of Cities Insurance Services did a law enforcement safety liability review at the department.

“We received a 100 percent. That was the first time since 2009, when Chief [Horace] Johnson was here,” he said. “That'll be a 12 percent savings on insurance for us when that comes up for review, so we're pleased about that. … We're just one of [less than] 20 departments [in the state] to make that score.”

Howie also reported on an organizational structural change at the department, with the elimination of the position for a major after the retirement of Maj. Eddie Lindsey on Nov. 1. The rank immediately under the chief will be captain, and there are two of those. He said he will rotate their being in charge if he's gone to give them both experience with that.

About 90 percent of the major's duties were administrative and not direct law enforcement, per se, so he was submitting to the full council a plan – for which first reading was later approved – to create a new, nonsworn position for a procurement and facilities officer to handle those tasks, and the rest would be shifted to the captains. After the second reading passes, he will provide the council with a revised policy that reflects that change for its consideration.

By flattening out the organizational chart, it will give staff members time to get the training they need to succeed for his succession planning.

He has recently hired a new officer who has prior law enforcement experience, two are at their academy training now and he has one opening.

Chris Freeman, director of the Barren-Metcalfe Emergency Communications Center, reported:

  • April Dunbar, communications supervisor, passed her National Emergency Number Association professional certification test, which he said was probably the hardest test he'd taken in his life when he took it, and “it's basically like getting a bachelor's degree, if you will, in 911.”
  • He and three other members of the staff attended a tactical or field dispatch class last week.
  • He's still waiting on one cellular-service vendor – Verizon, the networks on which Bluegrass Cellular also depends – before the center can fully go live with the text-to-911 program.

“There's some issues; it doesn't always work with that particular carrier,” Freeman said. “You can't consistently [use it] with a Bluegrass phone.”

“At the beginning of last year, I required the dispatchers to get a minimum of 40 hours of continuing education to kind of fill some of the gap that we had in our training. Almost a year in, I'm happy to report that two-thirds of them have doubled that, so you're looking at most folks getting 80 hours of continuing education,” Freeman said.

The trainings have been through a variety of sources – in-house, webinars, conferences and specific state and local training programs elsewhere, he said, and a few of them have received scholarships for attending conferences and other trainings.

  •  He also reported on the first Citizens Dispatch Academy and the hosting of the state 911 services board in September.
  • After prompting from Honeycutt, Freeman also reported on his election to the national Next Generation 911 Institute's board of directors.

“Never before really has there ever been a 911 center the size that we have [to] actually have a say. It's usually large companies, large vendors and large-scale [public safety answering points], so the little to small guy's got a say, at least for the next two years,” he said.

Copyright 2018 Glasgow Daily Times

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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