Volunteer fire departments (VFDs) are primarily comprised of volunteers who are trained in firefighting and other related emergency services for a local town or jurisdiction. These volunteers take on what can be a life-threatening job whenever responding to an emergency call. They regularly put themselves in harm’s way in an effort to save people
and property in their communities. Whether fighting to extinguish a fire or responding to an emergency call such as an automobile accident, hazmat situation or other emergency, firefighters are exposed to a number of health and safety hazards. Being aware of these hazards and knowing how to mitigate them can help reduce the frequency and severity of injuries, as well as save lives.
Burns, smoke inhalation and other fire-related injuries are commonly reported; however, firefighters also are exposed to health hazards such as strains and sprains, stress-related conditions, and cardiovascular events. The majority of
injuries are minor; however, a significant number can be debilitating or career-ending.
The link below will walk you through some common risks facing firefighters, and it will provide suggestions on
how to reduce injuries, minimize the severity, and provide effective post-injury management.
As a member of the Rural Fire Protection District Board of Directors, you are one of five people responsible for providing district residents with the best fire protection the district can afford. It is the board’s responsibility to see that members of your volunteer fire department(s) have the proper equipment and training necessary to serve district residents.
Powers and Responsibilities of the Rural Fire Protection District Board of Directors
The Rural Fire Protection District Board of Directors was created by Nebraska State Statutes 35-501 through 35-536 RRS 1943. Statute 35-506 states that the district will be governed by a board of five members, all residents of the district. The board will consist of a president, vice-president, secretary/treasurer and two directors. These offices are re-organized annually. Board members serve four-year terms.
Nebraska Statute 35-508 specifically details the powers and responsibilities of the Rural Fire Protection District Board of Directors. Briefly this statute states that each board will have the following general powers:
(1)To determine a general fire protection and rescue program for the district;
(2)To make an annual estimate of the… expense for carrying out such program;
(3)To annually certify such estimate to the county clerk . . . ;
(4)To manage and conduct the business affairs of the district;
(5)To make and execute contracts in the name of and on behalf of the district;
(6)To buy . . . and to sell real estate on behalf of the district . . .;
(7)To purchase or lease such firefighting and rescue equipment, supplies, and other real or personal property as necessary . . . to carry out the general fire protection and rescue program of the district;
(8)To incur indebtedness . . . ;
(9)To authorize the issuance of evidences of the indebtedness permitted … and to pledge any real or personal property owned . . . by the district as security for the same;
(10)To organize, establish, equip, maintain, and supervise a paid, volunteer, or combination paid and volunteer fire department . . . to serve the district;
(11)To employ . . . such personnel as necessary to carry out the general fire protection and rescue program of the district;
(12)To authorize . . . a contract with the Game and Parks Commission or a public power district for fire protection of property . . . located in or adjacent to the rural or suburban fire protection district;
(13)To levy a tax not to exceed 10½ cents on each $100 in any one year upon the taxable value of all taxable property within the district…, in addition to the amount of tax which may be annually levied to defray the general and incidental expenses of such district, for the purpose of establishing a sinking fund for the construction, purchase, improvement, extension, original equipment, or repair, not including maintenance, of district buildings to house equipment or personal belongings of a fire department, for the purchase of firefighting and rescue equipment or apparatus, for the acquisition of any land incidental to such purposes, or for payment of principal and interest on any evidence of indebtedness issued . . .;
(14)To adopt and enforce fire codes and establish penalties at annual meetings . . . ; and
(15)Generally to perform all acts necessary to fully carry out the purposes of sections 35-501 to 35-517.”
To perform their duties effectively, board members should understand the two forms of management practiced by many boards.
Under a reactive management style, a board acts impulsively and does not consider the long-term consequences of its actions. Reactive boards usually fail to make the best use of its resources and meet the desires of the taxpayers.
Operating under a proactive management style, a board takes the needs and desires of its district’s residents very seriously. A proactive board develops long-range plans that consider the implications of their actions. It chooses priorities and makes decisions very carefully. Proactive management is the most successful and cost-effective form of management.
Fire district budgets must be approved by the county board, so it is imperative that the board has a long-range plan in place for future district needs. This is accomplished by developing a Fire Protection Master Plan.
The preparation of a Fire Protection Master Plan is a proactive step that allows a board to determine what course(s) of action will provide its district the best long-term fire protection. Additional information about master planning is available the Nebraska Forest Service publication Community Fire Protection Master Planning. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nebforestpubs/51/
The best type of fire protection is fire prevention. An effective fire prevention program can accomplish this. An effective fire prevention program can decrease annual fire losses, so these types of programs are a wise investment.
Fire prevention will only eliminate a portion of fires, so each district must have the necessary fire suppression equipment. A fire department, regardless of the amount of training, cannot perform at 100 percent without adequate equipment. It is the responsibility of the board to see that the fire fighters have the equipment necessary to do their job. This equipment benefits everyone who lives in and passes through the district, not just the firefighters.
This post is taken from a publication by the Nebraska Forest Service
Snow removal is a part of almost every public entity operation – at least those located in cold weather climates. Keeping your public streets, sidewalks and parking lots clear of snow and ice throughout the winter is vital to reducing your risk for complaints and claims. Below are three reminders to keep your snow plow drivers prepared:
All snow plow operators should be properly trained prior to snow season. Various training methods include classroom training, hands-on training, simulator training and computer-based training. The training should include knowledge of the equipment and snow routes. Being familiar with the equipment and routes does not only improve safety for the public, but can increase the longevity of the snow plow.
Have each driver travel their snow plow route in good weather conditions to reduce the risks involved with operating equipment in inclement weather. By doing so, drivers can become familiar with areas of high foot traffic, physical hazards, conditions that could cause an accident or areas that could damage the snow plow. Other areas of concern may be areas where there is not adequate clearance for the snow plow or intersections that have limited visibility. Although caution should always be used when driving a snow plow, extra caution may be needed in the areas listed above.
Consider enrolling your road crews in LocalGovU’s “Snow and Ice Management” course. If you are an active policy holder with OneBeacon Government Risks, this course may be complimentary.
The operation of motor vehicles exposes your public entity to possible financial loss through damaged property, injury to employees and/or injury to members of the general public. This risk is increased when you introduce larger equipment into inclement weather creating poor driving conditions. So, in order mitigate some of the risk, ensure you adopt and implement a driver safety plan. See our Fleet Safety Guide, for a sample program that can easily be adapted specifically for snow plow drivers.
Tips for Drivers:
Come to work properly clothed.
Always get a good night’s rest before operating a vehicle.
If you begin to feel fatigued, take a break!
Never operate a snow plow while under the influence.
Drive with caution and choose an appropriate speed.
Be considerate of other motorists.
Obey all traffic laws.
Be brief when using the radio. Report all emergencies and/or stranded vehicles.
Avoid backing up unless absolutely necessary.
When exiting the snow plow, always set the brakes and turn the power to the machine off.
35-1001.Death or disability as a result of cancer; death or disability as a result of certain diseases; prima facie evidence.
For a firefighter or firefighter-paramedic who is a member of a paid fire department of a municipality or a rural or suburban fire protection district in this state, including a municipality having a home rule charter or a municipal authority created pursuant to a home rule charter that has its own paid fire department, and who suffers death or disability as a result of cancer, including, but not limited to, cancer affecting the skin or the central nervous, lymphatic, digestive, hematological, urinary, skeletal, oral, or prostate systems, evidence which demonstrates that (a) such firefighter or firefighter-paramedic successfully passed a physical examination upon entry into such service or subsequent to such entry, which examination failed to reveal any evidence of cancer, (b) such firefighter or firefighter-paramedic was exposed to a known carcinogen, as defined on July 19, 1996, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, while in the service of the fire department, and (c) such carcinogen is reported by the agency to be a suspected or known cause of the type of cancer the firefighter or firefighter-paramedic has, shall be prima facie evidence that such death or disability resulted from injuries, accident, or other cause while in the line of duty for the purposes of sections 16-1020 to 16-1042, a firefighter’s pension plan established pursuant to a home rule charter, and a firefighter’s pension or disability plan established by a rural or suburban fire protection district.
For a firefighter or firefighter-paramedic who is a member of a paid fire department of a municipality or a rural or suburban fire protection district in this state, including a municipality having a home rule charter or a municipal authority created pursuant to a home rule charter that has its own paid fire department, and who suffers death or disability as a result of a blood-borne infectious disease, tuberculosis, meningococcal meningitis, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, evidence which demonstrates that (a) such firefighter or firefighter-paramedic successfully passed a physical examination upon entry into such service or subsequent to such entry, which examination failed to reveal any evidence of such blood-borne infectious disease, tuberculosis, meningococcal meningitis, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and (b) such firefighter or firefighter-paramedic has engaged in the service of the fire department within ten years before the onset of the disease, shall be prima facie evidence that such death or disability resulted from injuries, accident, or other cause while in the line of duty for the purposes of sections 16-1020 to 16-1042, a firefighter’s pension plan established pursuant to a home rule charter, and a firefighter’s pension or disability plan established by a rural or suburban fire protection district.
The prima facie evidence presumed under this section shall extend to death or disability as a result of cancer as described in this section, a blood-borne infectious disease, tuberculosis, meningococcal meningitis, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus after the firefighter or firefighter-paramedic separates from his or her service to the fire department if the death or disability occurs within three months after such separation.
For purposes of this section, blood-borne infectious disease means human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and all strains of hepatitis.
18-1723. Firefighter; police officer; presumption of death or disability; rebuttable.
Whenever any firefighter who has served a total of five years as a member of a paid fire departmentof any city in this state or any police officer of any city or village, including any city having a home rule charter, shall suffer death or disability as a result of hypertension or heart or respiratory defect or disease, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that such death or disability resulted from accident or other cause while in the line of duty for all purposes of Chapter 15, article 10, sections 16-1001 to 16-1042, and any firefighter’s or police officer’s pension plan established pursuant to any home rule charter, the Legislature specifically finding the subject of this section to be a matter of general statewide concern. The rebuttable presumption shall apply to death or disability as a result of hypertension or heart or respiratory defect or disease after the firefighter or police officer separates from his or her applicable employment if the death or disability occurs within three months after such separation. Such rebuttable presumption shall apply in any action or proceeding arising out of death or disability incurred prior to December 25, 1969, and which has not been processed to final administrative or judicial conclusion prior to such date.
A strategic plan is a management tool help a department to perform efficiently, safely and consider all potential pitfalls. The plan focuses the energy, resources, and time of everyone on the department in the on a common goal. The best plans are reviewed and amended on a regular basis.
The plan can be as simple or as complex as you wish to make it. It can always be altered by further leadership. Start with a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats or SWOT Analysis. The more you revise and the more everyone is on board with the common, prioritized goals, the department should work more smoothly. You may event end the arguments about how “this is how we always do it” with a reference to such in the strategic plan.
Here are some items found on a strategic plan
Definition of a Community-Driven Strategic Plan
Process and Acknowledgements
Community Group Findings
Areas of Community Concern
Positive Community Feedback
Other Thoughts and Comments
Programs and Services
Critical Issues and Service Gaps/Opportunities
Goals and Objectives
The Success of the Strategic Plan
Goals and Objectives
Emergency Services Performance Objectives and targets
Fire and EMS Performance Objectives and targets
Create one and/or review on a regular basis before its too late!
Here is a Youtube video showing a strategic plan working though the thought process.
Here are some examples of other departments strategic plans.
Both Agents and Insured need to be VERY CLEAR about who is the NAMED INSURED on a policy. This often requires tedious research. Even if the board members are confident they know their official name or whether or not a partnership exists, sometimes they find out later they don’t. Generally, this is not a big deal until there is a BIG CLAIM. Better to be safe than sorry!
Below are statements I hear all the time, and I believe they are potential examples of shared liability exposures.
” The RFD has nothing to do with the Fire Dept., we just buy the trucks they drive to calls & service.”
” The City/Village has nothing to do with the Fire Dept., we just own the fire hall they service the RFD’s trucks in, and operate out of.”
” RFD has nothing to do with the City/Village, we just allow the fire dept. who uses our trucks, park them in the Fire Hall owned by the City/Village.”
If a Fire Dist. owns the trucks, the Fire Dept. VOLUNTEERS work on/drive the trucks and the City/Village owns the Fire Hall and only one of them is NAMED INSURED on the policy:
Are the other two entities who are not named covered for their own actions relating to Fire Service on their own policy?
If they are not listed as named insured, DO THEY HAVE A General Liability and Errors and Omission policy?
If there other two entities not named have no to General Liability or Errors and Omission policy, could they be ordered to cut the damages check from their own funds?
If they are not a public entity, such as a VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPT. created as a not for profit, and do not have a General Liability and Errors and Omission policy, are they PERSONALLY EXPOSED for actions taken on behalf of the public entity?
Could a carrier still subrogate for a Named Insured. VS Department if the department was listed as a ADDITIONAL INSURED?
Is this a potential E&O claim for an AGENT? If all members of this interlocal agreement are not listed as Named or Additional Insured?
Would it stop subrogation of a interlocal partner if they are listed as a Named or Additional named insured? If so that is a pretty expensive error.
Are you sure all additional insured are named if they are not actually listed as named insured?
Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. Recently wrote about the importance for Fire Law Blog.
“Where there are multiple separate entities involved in providing fire protection, gaps in insurance coverage could leave one or more of the entities vulnerable to such a subrogation lawsuit.”
Scope Of The Cancer Problem In The Fire Service Cancer is one of the most dangerous threats to the health and safety of firefighters everywhere.Cancer is one of the most dangerous threats to the health and safety of firefighters everywhere. Multiple studies have proven the link between firefighting and cancer.Multiple studies have proven the link between firefighting and cancer. – “Taking Action Against Cancer in the Fire Service” white paper – Firefighter Cancer Support Network –
As many of you know, Ball Insurance specializes in helping local agents insure their local governments. Many times when a local agent will approach a board to advise that they want to bring a proposal from another carrier, they are also offering their agency as a servicing agency for that account. There is more being offered than just the insurance policy. They are offering their service, knowledge, dedication, expertise, partnership, commitment and experience.
Ultimately all involved know this is true, otherwise agents would be out of a job and municipalities would be buying their commercial package online. What is not pointed out that an agent or agency’s worth is not reflected the insurance proposal. It should considered. It is extremely important that the trust an entity is putting in their agent is well founded. If an agent unwittingly does not add a coverage, either property or worse yet an liability exposure, there will be no coverage at claim time. This is why even many experienced agents partner with Ball Insurance for municipalities. They willingly take a pay cut to make sure their municipal clients are covered accurately. It is also why we at Ball Insurance don’t write other policies, such as crop insurance. We know nothing about it! The fear is that we would inevitably miss something.
When the agent comes to offer a proposal, boards (and often even the agent) are confused into thinking this requires a bidding process. I would propose that Nebraska Statute Section 23-3109 indicates that bidding is not required for having insurance needs met. An entity is choosing more than a carrier or a commercial package. They are selecting an agent/agency who has prepared that proposal and who is recommending the coverages, terms, limits etc on it. It is assumed by the entity that the agent/agency will continue to keep abreast of any issues pertinent to entity, and advise if changes are necessary during the policy period.
The agent/entity relationship should not be “one and done.” For example, the agent is successful in getting the entity’s business and then they only see him/her at renewal time to sign some new documents the carrier is requiring. Worse yet, an entity never sees their agent again. They only receive an email annually from the agent or a customer service representative requesting they sign renewal documents.
It’s clear that the entity is obtaining a professional service. There are agents who are just better at servicing clients than others. It’s true that agents are paid by commission, which is different than many professionals, such as an attorney. Both are considered professionals by law in the State of Nebraska and are required to maintain professional standards.
If you need an attorney, you certainly don’t want the least expensive one. You want the best one. PERIOD. When there is so much at stake with a municipality’s commercial package coverage, doesn’t it make sense to have the best agent/agency? The one offering superior service, knowledge, dedication, expertise, partnership, commitment and experience?
The obvious answer is yes. A board has plenty to deal with. If there is an opportunity to have a professional look at coverages and give recommendations, take it. There is no obligation of move to another agency or carrier. It’s free professional advice. You just might find a good agent, premium savings and more coverages for your entity.
See below Nebraska Statutes Section 23-3109.
Section 23-3109 Competitive bidding; when not required; waiver of bidding requirements; when.
(1) Competitive bidding shall not be required (a) when purchasing unique or noncompetitive items, (b) when purchasing petroleum products, (c) when obtaining professional services or equipment maintenance, or (d) when the price has been established by one of the following: (i) The federal General Services Administration; (ii) the materiel division of the Department of Administrative Services; or (iii) a cooperative purchasing agreement by which supplies, equipment, or services are procured in accordance with a contract established by another governmental entity or group of governmental entities if the contract was established in accordance with the laws and regulations applicable to the establishing governmental entity or, if a group, the lead governmental entity.
Of course the answer is no. Often times its hard to tell, even for the agents. Here is some help to clear things up.
Here is OBGR First Fire Services Business Auto Coverage Policy Form.
C. Limit of Insurance
The most we will pay for “loss” in any one “accident” is the least of:
1. the cost of repairing the damaged property; or
2. the cost to repair or replace a part or parts of the damaged property as of the time of the “loss” with a part
or parts of like kind and quality without deduction for depreciation; or
3. the cost to replace the entire covered “auto” as of the time of “loss” with a comparable new “auto” manufactured to current specifications; or
4. the agreed amount limit that applies to the covered “auto”.
What does that mean? Items 1&2 refer to repairing/replacing parts. This is in the event of not a total loss. Items 3&4 tell you want they are going to do in the event of a total loss.
So who determines whether or not you are getting 1&2 or 3&4? Meaning who decides if a vehicle is totaled? In determining whether a vehicle is totaled, insurance companies will calculate the Total Loss Ratio (TLR) (cost of repairs/actual cash value) and then compare the resulting ratio/percentage to limits set and/or established by state law. In NE that is 75% of the retail value at the time it was damaged.
2009 Chevy Silverado fully insured for $38,000 has accident resulting in $15,000 of damage. The current retail value would be $19,500.
This vehicle would be totaled because 15,000/19,5000 = 76%.
That is over the state allowance in the TLR and the owner would be either received a new auto manufactured to current specifications or $38,000, the policy limit.
So if they insured it enough for replacement cost for a new 2016, they would get a new Silverado. Otherwise, they would get the limit on the policy.
Are all policies required to do that? No, if a policy form states that they are offering coverage that differs from the state law, they are not bound to follow the guideline.
Another policy example.
It begins in a very similar way to First Fire Services Business Auto Coverage Policy Form in relation to the repair vs. replace auto language. However, it adds something very significant that you want to pay attention to.
“In the event that the estimated costs to repair the covered “auto” exceeds 75% of theDesignated Value limit shown in the schedule on the Declarations for that “auto”, you may choose not to accept payment under items 1.(a) or 1.(b) above. In that case, we will pay you the lesser of the amounts due under items 1.(c) or 1.(d) above. If you elect to neither repair nor replace the “auto”, we will pay you the actual cash value (ACV) of the “auto”, subject to 1.(d) above. If we settle the “loss” under items 1.(c) or 1.(d) above or pay actual cash value (ACV), we retain all rights to recovery and salvage.”
Whats the big deal, its stating the 75% ratio? Look closely, its not 75% of the ACV of the auto like the state guidelines its its 75% of the Designated Value limit shown in the schedule on the Declarations. That means, 75% of what your limit of the policy for that auto.
So lets take our example from above. Same circumstance, different policy. 2009 Silverado fully insured for $38,000 has accident resulting in $15,000 of damage. The current retail value would be $19,500. This vehicle would be repaired because $15,000 is only 39% of $38,000. Even though this is over the Nebraska state allowance in the TLR, a carrier is not required to replace if their policy tells you it won’t in its policy form.
In fact, this same 2009 Silverado can be repaired for for to $28,500 worth of repairs.
Here is that carrier’s instruction when they made this change Designated Value Change in their Business Auto Coverage Policy Form 2010.
“The biggest factors to consider are how much premium you want to pay and what you would likely want to get, if your vehicle is damaged beyond repair. However, keep in mind that in the majority of vehicle physical damage losses, the vehicle can be repaired.
If you want to replace the vehicle with a little newer vehicle in possibly better condition, then the Designated Value should be set close to the cost of the newer vehicle you might want.
If you want a brand new vehicle, the Designated Value should be set at the high end of the range. Remember, the policy only allows you to get another vehicle, if the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds 75% of the Designated Value. If you decide to select a high Designated Value, we can provide extensive repairs even on an older vehicle with a relatively low actual cash value, before we are obligated to get you a different vehicle. Also remember, the higher the Designated Value, the more you will pay in insurance premiums.”
If they tell you they aren’t giving you a new auto, believe them. It’s important to understand these differences before you have a loss. You need information to make educated choices. There is nothing worse than going into a claims situation and not having it handled the way you expected.
What Ball Insurance is offering in Nebraska is Agreed Amount Valuation. Our Physical Damage coverage is simply better.