Walker County Fire Chief Blake Hodge Receives Executive Fire Officer Designation

LaFayette, GA – Walker County Fire Chief Blake Hodge received local and state recognition during last night’s Commissioner meeting.

Hodge successfully completed the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Academy’s four year Executive Fire Officer Program. The EFOP focuses on leadership development, lifelong learning, being proactive instead of reactive and utilizing research and analytics to reduce risk, among other skills.

Chief Hodge is one of only 72 Executive Fire Officers in the state of Georgia.

Along with a local proclamation to recognize this accomplishment, Chief Hodge received a proclamation from Georgia’s Insurance & Safety Fire Commissioner for the county’s campaign to install smoke alarms in every home in Walker County at no expense to citizens.  305 smoke alarms have been installed so far in 2019.

Walker County Maintains 3/3Y ISO Rating

LaFayette, GA – Walker County maintained a 3/3Y ISO rating following a rigorous review of fire services in the unincorporated areas of the county and city of Chickamauga.

The 3/3Y classification by the Insurance Service Office will benefit homeowners and business owners.  Insurance companies use ISO ratings in their calculations to determine insurance rates in a community.

“This validates all the hard work being done by our team to improve fire service in Walker County, while reinforcing the fact that our efforts provide a financial savings too,” said Chief Blake Hodge.  “These surveys take a lot of time and effort to coordinate. It’s not easy to attain this mark.”

The ISO evaluation looked at all aspects of the fire department, including equipment, manpower, training, number of stations and response times.  ISO also evaluated area water authorities, 911 communications, public education, fire prevention efforts, code enforcement and inspections, among other areas.

Walker County received high marks for communications, water supply, fire hydrants and firefighter training.

ISO rates communities one on a scale of 1 to 10.  A lower number means fire service in a given area is better equipped to put out a fire and save a home or business.  The ISO 3 rating, which is good for four years, places Walker County in the Top 12% in the nation for fire protection, ahead of more than 37,800 other cities and counties.

Walker County Partners with SirenGPS for Community Notification System

LaFayette, GA – Walker County has a new and improved method for the public to receive emergency and community notifications.  The SirenGPS app can send push notifications to smartphones in a matter of seconds, keeping residents alerted to bad weather and other community concerns or interests.

“While our primary use of this notification system will be for emergency situations, we also have the capability to geofence or draw a map around a certain area that will only notify folks in that area of things like a water outage, power outage or road closure,” said Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Blake Hodge.

SirenGPS will only send residents who sign-up for the free service one alert, so if they receive the push notification from the app, the system will check them off as being notified.  60 seconds later, SirenGPS will send out text messages to those who still need to be notified.  60 seconds after that, anyone still in need of an alert will get a phone call.

Chief Hodge added, “We’re concentrating on trying to limit landline usage because our infrastructure can cause a delay of more than an hour if everyone in the county were to receive a phone call.  So this new delivery, with an app push notification, is going to be key to the success of this notification system.”

SirenGPS immediately replaces Walker County’s Hyper-Reach notification system.  Residents are urged to download the free SirenGPS app, which is available for Apple and Android devices.  Those who do not have a smartphone and wish to receive a text or phone call should contact Tina in the Walker County Commissioner’s Office at 706-638-1437 or register online secure.sirengps.com//register.

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Teddy Bears to Help Answer Emergency Calls Involving Children in Walker County

Rock Spring, GA – Fire trucks in Walker County are now transporting a furry friend to the scene of a traumatic event involving a child.

Walker County Emergency Services (WCES) recently received a donation of 30 teddy bears from State Farm Agent Mike Herndon and his team in Rock Spring.  The bears have been distributed to every career fire station in Walker County for firefighters to give to children during an emergency situation, like a wreck or fire.

“Teddy bears can provide a sense of comfort and security during a turbulent time,” said Fire Chief Blake Hodge.  “I hope these friendly faces will remind our youngest patients that the community cares about their wellbeing and make a scary situation a little less frightening.”

Along with the bears, Herndon donated 150 sets of coloring books and crayons for WCES’ Fire Prevention and Education Department to be used in local schools and daycares.

Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation Grant Aids Walker County Firefighters

Chickamauga, GA – The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has awarded Walker County Emergency Services (WCES) a grant valued at $14,385. The funds will be used to purchase 21 Seek Thermal Imaging Cameras (TICs) and accessories.

WCES currently has eight TICs in its inventory, but only six are operational and in service. “With 19 fire stations serving an estimated 458 square miles, our current number of TICs does not meet our need to supply every firefighter with this live-saving technological tool,” said Fire Chief Blake Hodge.

The new cameras are smaller and lighter than their older counterparts, and can be attached to a firefighter or their gear. WCES will strategically place TICs at career and volunteer stations throughout the county, as well as Station 8 at Walker State Prison. “The addition of these cameras will improve the safety of our firefighters and improve our ability to locate fire victims and injured firefighters,” added Chief Hodge.

Along with their lifesaving capabilities, thermal imaging cameras can help firefighters search for missing persons, identify fires hidden in the wall of a house and locate hot spots in electrical and mechanical components.

“I’d like to thank Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation for their continued support of public safety organizations. Their contributions improve the services provided by first responders in Walker County and other communities,” said Chief Hodge.

ABOUT FIREHOUSE SUBS PUBLIC SAFETY FOUNDATION
In 2005, the Firehouse Subs founders established the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation with the mission of providing funding, life-saving equipment, and educational opportunities to first-responders and public safety organizations. Through the non-profit 501(c)(3), Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has granted more than $35 million to hometown heroes in 47 states, Puerto Rico and Canada, including more than $2.3 million in Georgia.  

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.