Rural volunteer fire dept. reluctant to implement technology

Fire Chief Wayne Lucas said every time he tries to introduce technology, someone quits


Steve DeVane
The Fayetteville Observer

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — Some experienced volunteer firefighters have a tough time adjusting to technological advances that are being used on emergency vehicles, the chief of a rural department said Tuesday.

Cumberland County’s Public Safety Task Force talked about computer software and how it is used by emergency workers at the task force’s meeting Tuesday. A task force subcommittee discussed the issue at a meeting last month.

Wayne Lucas, chief of the Godwin-Falcon Fire Department, said he doesn’t have a problem with using technology.

“Every time I introduce or attempt to introduce in my department a requirement to use some technology, I lose somebody,” he said.

Lucas said younger firefighters are more likely to embrace the changes. But if he starts to tell older firefighters that they have to start using the computers, they say, “Chief, I’m gone,” he said.

Brian Pearce, corporate director of emergency medical services and emergency management for Cape Fear Valley Health System, said the hospital faced similar challenges with ambulance workers. The workers embraced the changes once they figured out the new system was easier, he said.

Lucas said those workers were being paid. He said he has more control over the paid firefighters at this station.

“I can only push a volunteer so far,” he said.

The task force will need to balance the need for technological advances with challenges faced by rural departments, said Greg Grayson, who is facilitating the task force meetings.

Grayson is chief officer of North Carolina Fire Rescue innovative Solutions, an organization that helps counties and municipalities improve their emergency services.

The task force also discussed what might be in a contract between Cumberland County and the fire departments.

A rough draft of potential standards of performance in a contract calls for departments in suburban areas to have at least four firefighters on the scene of a residential structure fire within 12 minutes on 90 percent of calls. Departments in rural areas would meet that criteria within 17 minutes.

The task force also talked about several other parts of a potential contract.

The task force is scheduled to continue discussion about contracts when it meets again Aug. 16.

County commissioners reactivated the task force this year to look at funding and staffing issues in rural fire departments. The group initially was formed in 2008 and made recommendations two years later about municipal and volunteer fire departments, emergency medical services and 911 communications.

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