Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell on Thursday talked about the training required for members of his department and how it is necessary to split schedules to meet state standards. Howell was the guest speaker at the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club at the Pine Bluff Country Club. He was filling in for Battalion Chief Harold Clark, who had been scheduled to speak but was out with the flu.
Specifically, Howell talked about the training required to be a nationally certified Emergency Medical Technician. He said that 40 hours of training is required each two years to maintain the national certification, and the training must be completed by March 31.
“We work three shifts, 24 hours on and 48 hours off,” Howell said. “Every third day, we have roughly 30 people working to man seven stations.”
He said classes are offered in four-hour blocks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with roughly half of the people working that day attending each session.
“It’s crucial to what we do, but there are also costs and scheduling that have to be considered,” Howell said.
While half the firefighters working on that day are in class, the other half are available to fight fires or respond to medical emergencies, he said.
He said the department currently has a Class Two ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating, and training is one of the things that is looked at, as well as water pressure and dispatching.
“We would love to be a Class One, and we’re working toward that,” Howell said. “We were a three for a long time, but when the tax (2011 Penny for Progress) passed, we were able to get new equipment, a new station and remodel some of the others.”
Regarding the stations, Howell said that with seven stations, the city is adequately covered. However, he said that there is a need to either remodel or replace Station Four, which is located on Commerce Road near the Pines Mall.
“It was built along the floor plans of a house and doesn’t fit today’s needs,” Howell said. “If we buy a new fire truck we would have to shorten the truck to fit the station.”
That station was built to resemble houses in the neighborhood in 1973, Howell said.
“It’s beginning to show its age,” he said.
Asked about response times, Howell said the department strives for three-to-five minutes to reach a scene from the time they are dispatched.
He went on to say that it might take dispatchers several minutes to determine the location of a call before the department is notified.
“The caller might be telling them everything that is going on while the dispatcher is asking for the location,” he said.
Howell also pitched some of the services offered by the department as well as appealed to members of the club to sign up for the upcoming Citizens Fire Academy scheduled later this year
“It will be an eight-week course taught once a week,” Howell said. “It will give people a chance to walk in our shoes and see what we do.”
For information about the academy or to sign up, contact the department at 543-5150.