We’d like congratulate Villages Public Safety Fire Chief Edmund Cain, District Manager Richard Baier and the entire fire department in The Villages for being awarded a prestigious grant from FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security.
Cain announced this week that his department is receiving a $6.52 million grant that will pay for 27 new firefighters, all of whom can be hired right away. With the phenomenal growth The Villages is undergoing, adding those firefighters now instead of at a pace of nine per year as originally planned could be a huge game changer.
The grant pays for the firefighters’ salaries and benefits, which means Cain and his staff can go out and recruit the best of the best. And to make matters even better, unlike with similar grants in past years, The Villages fire department doesn’t have to provide any kind of matching funds.
That’s right, the grant 100 percent pays for those new firefighters that will soon be saving lives and property for the 134,000-plus residents of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown who are scattered across 90 square miles.
Needless to say, Cain is thrilled that his department is one of only 14 in Florida to receive one of the grants. Baier echoed those sentiments, adding that he was told only about 400 grants were handed out to fire departments across the entire country, which clearly puts The Villages Public Safety Department in elite company.
Cain said adding those new firefighters will help maintain the goal of being a premier fire department and the need to comply with staffing, response and operational standards established by the National Fire Protection Agency. He added that the additional staffing also could help his department receive an even higher rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO), which ultimately can reduce insurance premiums for homeowners.
The Villages Public Safety Department currently provides ISO Fire Protection Class 2 services to residents and visitors in the community. The department is one of 112 out of 517 in the state and one of 1,597 across the country classified as an ISO 2 fire department. Not surprisingly, Cain won’t be completely satisfied until that ISO score improves to 1.
“Insurance companies use the ISO score to help set home insurance rates,” Cain said. “That is something we take quite seriously and we are always striving to do whatever it takes to lower that rating. Needless to say, a home that is less likely to be severely damaged or destroyed by a fire is cheaper to insure.”
Many Villagers might not know it, but The Villages Public Safety Department has only been in existence for a little more than 20 years. It started in October 1999 as a rural department with one station at The Villages Annex, one fire chief and nine firefighter/paramedics. The crews handled 1,040 calls that first year, with the expectation that the call volume would increase dramatically each year.
The department now boasts nine stations, a fire chief, a deputy fire chief, 123 firefighters and an administrative staff of 16. In the last year, Villages firefighters responded to 29,220 calls for service – a 2,708 percent increase from the total number of calls handled that first year. So it’s quite easy to see the importance of the increased staffing levels as the community continues to grow at a rapid pace south of State Road 44, with the newest sections likely to extend as far south as Bushnell.
Of course, Villagers really shouldn’t be surprised to see their fire department receive such a prestigious grant. The department has been known for demonstrating excellence for many years, including an average response time of four minutes and 39 seconds. Largely because of that – it’s the envy of many fire agencies across the nation – the department also boasts a cardiac survival rate of 40 percent.
Yes, you read that correctly – 40 percent. And in case you’re wondering how that amazing number is calculated, it’s really very simple and direct.
“Those are patients who walked out of the hospital after suffering a cardiac event,” Cain said. “Cardiac save rates are calculated different ways by some departments. But for us it’s very simple – they survived and were able to return home and continuing enjoying their retirement years here in The Villages.”
As we said earlier, we take our hat off to The Villages Public Safety Department for yet another prestigious accomplishment. Cain and company have the goal of being a premier fire department that handles growth with ease and provides the best possible care and service to Villages residents and visitors. Once again they’ve shown us how they are maintaining that goal with flying colors and like you, we appreciate their hard work to secure such a prestigious and large grant that will make a difference in the community for years to come.