Walker County, American Red Cross Partner to Provide Free Smoke Alarms to Residents

LaFayette, GA – Walker County Emergency Services (WCES) and the American Red Cross of Northwest Georgia are sounding the alarm to save lives. The two organizations have partnered to provide free smoke alarms to Walker County residents in need of these life saving devices.

WCES received a donation of 150 smoke alarms from the Red Cross to distribute throughout the community. Residents can call 706-539-1255 and press #2 for the Fire Marshal’s office to request one. Smoke alarms will be given out and installed on a first come, first served basis. Once the supply is exhausted, WCES will place residents on a waiting list to receive an alarm as additional inventory becomes available.

Special smoke alarms for hearing impaired residents are also available.

WCES worked 71 residential fires in 2017. In recent weeks, firefighters have responded to a number of incidents where smoke alarms alerted homeowners to a problem, allowing them to escape safely. However, the National Fire Protection Association reports roughly five-million households still do not have even one working smoke alarm.

December, January and February are peak months for residential fires, due to increased use of home heating equipment.

Realignment of Public Safety Resources Improves Response Times in Walker County

LaFayette, GA – Walker County residents are already experiencing an improvement in emergency services following a recent realignment of public safety resources.

Walker County increased the number of 24/7/365 fire stations from 4 to 6 on October 1st. Existing staff and equipment were relocated to enhance services in the Villanow, Cane Creek and Kensington communities.

Last month, firefighters at Station 14 saved more than 13 minutes responding to calls in Villanow, while the average response time from Station 15 in Cane Creek was nearly cut in half.

Walker County Emergency Services Chief Blake Hodge said, “This is a drastic improvement in our department’s response times. Considering a fire doubles in size every minute and irreversible brain damage can occur within four to six minutes, response times are critical.”

Station 14 in Villanow posted an 8:42 mark in October, significantly improving on the previous average response time of 22:10. Station 15 in Cane Creek established a response of 6:18 last month, compared to its previous average of 12:33. “Currently, there are no ambulances stationed near Villanow. The closest is 12 miles away in LaFayette. We’re now arriving approximately ten minutes before an ambulance to provide initial patient care,” added Hodge.

Station 20, near Highway 136 and Cove Road, had not been staffed by career or volunteer firefighters prior to October 1st. Initial data shows an average response time of 9:06.

Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield pointed out, “This is all being done with less funding. The fire department’s budget was cut by $50,000 compared to what was spent in 2016. I commend Chief Hodge and his team for finding new methods to better manage taxpayer money.”

The realignment followed the successful transition of Station 2 in Flintstone in July to a 24/7/365 operation. The county’s other full-time fire stations are in Rock Spring and Chickamauga.

Walker County also plans to focus on developing automatic aid agreements with neighboring jurisdictions to further strengthen response times and improve services.

WALKER COUNTY EXPANDS & UPDATES AED PROGRAM

Emergency Services group picture

Rock Spring, GA – Walker County residents just got a little safer. Emergency crews joined forces today to make upgrades to the county’s Automated External Defibrillator (AED) program.

Walker County Emergency Management used a portion of a Georgia Emergency Management grant to replace AED batteries in 23 Walker County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars. Deputies often arrive to the scene of an emergency minutes before fire and EMS crews, because of the geographic challenges of the county.

Roughly 10 cases of cardiac arrest occur in Walker County every month. These devices significantly increase a patient’s chances of survival.

The grant also funded new AED’s for the Local Government Services office, aka the Tags & Taxes building, and the Fire Department Shift Commander’s vehicle. Supplies for these units and AED’s inside the jail were also restocked.

Approximately $16,000 of the grant remains unspent. Emergency Management officials continue to evaluate the county’s future emergency equipment needs.

Walker County Adds 3 Quick Response Vehicles to Reduce Response Times and Save Taxpayer Money

A Quick Response Vehicles used by the fire department

Lafayette, GA – Walker County Emergency Services (WCES) placed three Quick Response Vehicles (QRV) into operation last week. One QRV has been added to each of the county’s three full time fire stations: Rock Spring, Chickamauga and Lafayette. These vehicles can respond to any incident, but will primarily work medical calls and motor vehicle accidents.

In their first 48 hours in service, firefighters used QRVs to respond to 23 out of 24 service calls. The one call where a Quick Response Vehicle was not used came while a QRV was already dispatched on a medical call. WCES used a QRV to respond to 39 of 44 calls last week.

The addition of these QRVs comes at no added expense to the taxpayer, and will provide Walker County residents with significant savings. WCES repurposed trucks used to battle brush fires. In addition, the department relocated medical and extrication equipment from fire engines for this new service.

QRVs are more cost effective to maintain than fire engines, get twice as much gas mileage and will improve response times. They also allow WCES to extend the life span of existing fire engines, since these 35,000+ pound units will now be used to primarily respond to residential and commercial fires.

Each QRV is staffed with a minimum of two firefighters.

New Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Appointed

LaFayette, GA – Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield announced the appointment of Blake Hodge as the county’s new Fire Chief and Emergency Management director.
Chief Hodge began his fire service career in 1992 as a volunteer firefighter. Over the next 24 years he held positions of increasing responsibility as part-time and full-time firefighter, supervisor, officer in charge, and training officer, and was subsequently promoted to division chief of training of the Gordon County Fire Department in Calhoun, Georgia. Chief Hodge served as the Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director of the Garden City Fire Department in the Savannah, Georgia area for the past two years.

“Chief Hodge’s diverse experience will provide us with solid leadership of our Walker County Fire Department,” said Commissioner Whitfield. “Under Chief Hodge’s leadership, the Walker County Fire and Emergency Services will provide the citizens of Walker County with an extraordinary level of service consistent with the new vision, mission and values of Walker County. Chief Hodge will guide our dedicated firefighters and emergency personnel in their continued pursuit of excellence and the goal of becoming the best of the best.  His appointment will bring a new level of professionalism, experience and understanding into Walker County government.”
“I’m very excited to welcome Chief Hodge and his family back to north Georgia,” said Commissioner Whitfield. “Hodge was a top finalist in Catoosa County’s recent search for a new Fire Chief.  County Manager Jim Walker was very helpful in providing resumes and recommendations from their extensive search.”
Chief Hodge said, “I would like to thank Commissioner Whitfield for the opportunity to be a part of the Walker County team. Walker County’s commitment to excellence, coupled with Commissioner Whitfield’s vision to improve services for the citizens is the foundation for which I accepted this position.”
Fire Chief Hodge’s long list of accomplishments include earning a Master of Business Administration, a degree in Organizational Management and Leadership with an emphasis in Public Safety, an associate’s degree in Applied Science in Fire Science Technology and a paramedic license.
Chief Hodge is also attending the Executive Fire Officer Program (EFO) – year three of four at the National Fire Academy. He also received the Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Designation at the Center for Public Safety Excellence, a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) GEMA, and a NPQ Fire Officer 1, II, III, & IV certification. In addition, Chief Hodge has experience in many areas having worked as an emergency medical technician and paramedic for 18 years, a NPQ fire instructor, NPQ fire inspector and NPQ Public Fire & Life Safety educator, and an Advanced Level II EMT instructor.
Commissioner Whitfield stated that one of the many tasks assigned to Chief Hodge, is to create a plan to expand fire protection services on the north end of Walker County. This would include staffing a full time station that would provide 24-hour coverage to improve response time. “We will continue to rely heavily on our dedicated volunteer firefighters,” said Commissioner Whitfield. “I have tasked Chief Hodge with recruiting more volunteer firefighters to improve our readiness. Volunteer firefighters have always been a critical part of delivering emergency services to the citizens of Walker County and will remain a key component.”
During the campaign for Sole Commissioner, Shannon Whitfield stated many times that he would work to improve the emergency preparedness of our county. He is wasting no time in regards to his commitment to the citizens of Walker County.
Mr. Hodge replace Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director David Ashburn, effective Monday, at 8:00 a.m.