The Frederick County Council unanimously approved a series of county code amendments Tuesday that will make the review process for the county’s Division of Fire and Rescue Services more efficient.
“This has been discussed by advisory boards and volunteer fire companies for a while, and it just makes volunteer fire rescue companies a viable asset to Frederick County,” bill sponsor Councilman Michael Blue (R) said during Tuesday’s meeting, when the council approved the amendments.
County code requires the county’s 25 independent volunteer fire and rescue departments to undergo periodic performance reviews, or accreditations, to ensure each is meeting minimum local, state and overall service standards.
Accreditation gauges administrative function rather than the effectiveness of a department’s emergency response, division Chief Tom Coe said, and the code amendments won’t impact the department’s emergency response.
Among the amendments is the requirement that reviews take place every other year instead of annually. An individual station’s makeup doesn’t change much from year to year, Coe said, so annual reviews are unnecessary. Accreditation, however, remains key for identifying ways the departments can improve the services they provide to their respective communities.
The division chief will still be able to require a review any time they have reason to believe a department may not be meeting minimum standards.
Another amendment will free departments of a requirement that each have 10 volunteer firefighters who live within a specified distance of the firehouse. (Volunteer firefighters work at their own discretion rather than on scheduled shifts.) Coe said the detail is unnecessary, and Blue agreed, calling it outdated. Without the requirement, departments will have an easier time documenting for accreditation their number of active responders.
Thanks to the amendments passing, Coe said, the county’s fire and rescue services look forward to having their accreditation process more streamlined.
Tuesday marked the final council meeting for July. The body will be on recess until Aug. 10.