The Plain Township Fire Department wants to hire three full-time firefighter-paramedics, but Plain Township trustees delayed voting on the issue Aug. 18.

The Plain Township Fire Department wants to hire three full-time firefighter-paramedics, but Plain Township trustees delayed voting on the issue Aug. 18.

Dave Ferguson and Dave Olmstead, the two trustees present, wanted to wait for Bud Zappitelli be present.

Fire Chief John Hoovler told trustees Aug. 18 that, according to the 1999 fire department master plan, "based on the population growth of the area, we hire three cross-trained personnel every other year. In 2010, there shall be eleven on-duty staff."

Township administrator Ben Collins reported that the fire department has a fire chief, an assistant chief, three captains, three lieutenants, a fire marshal, a fire safety inspector, an office assistant, 23 full-time firefighters who are also certified paramedics and 28 part-time firefighter-paramedics.

Collins recommended that the trustees approve the hiring of the three full-time firefighter-paramedics.

"The addition will allow the department to meet the National Fire Protection Association benchmark of four firefighter-paramedics for each engine and ladder company. This will also improve the department's ISO personnel score and meet ISO recommended staff levels while increasing the department's (ISO) rating," he said.

ISO is a supplier of "statistical, actuarial, underwriting and claims data" for the property and casualty insurance industry, according to the company's website.

Ferguson asked if the department's ISO rating gets better, if residents will see a decrease in insurance rates.

"Quite possibly in commercial rates," Hoovler said.

The department currently operates with seven firefighter-paramedics per shift. When the medic unit is called out, three respond in the vehicle and four remain at the station to wait for other calls. If a fire call comes in, all seven go out, with three in the fire engine and four in the ladder truck.

Adding three full-time firefighters would allow the department to have eight per shift. When the medic is called out, three would respond and five would remain at the station. For fire calls, four would go in the engine and four would man the ladder truck.

Information from the fire department shows the area's population increasing to between 17,000 and 20,000 by 2015. Ferguson asked how those population estimates were obtained, and Hoovler said estimates were from the master plan, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), the New Albany-Plain Local School District and the fire department's database.

Ferguson questioned why population estimates included areas outside the fire department's jurisdiction. Hoovler said that central Ohio has a policy called "mutual aid" that allows neighboring departments to help each other in an emergency. For example, he said, if Plain Township had its equipment tied up at one emergency and another occured, the Columbus Division of Fire or Mifflin Township Fire Department would respond to the second emergency even if it were within Plain Township's borders.

Hoovler said mutual aid is not common outside central Ohio. He said he has spoken with firefighters in the Cleveland area who do not cross borders even if they see a fire on the other side.

"They stop at the line," Hoovler said. "They were shocked at how much we help each other."

Ferguson asked if a state law requires the entity within the jurisdiction to respond to an emergency first. Hoovler said the state allows the mutual aid agreement to operate and it works well, even if another department responds out of its jurisdiction.

"The fire chiefs in this area think it is most beneficial to all of us," he said. "There's someone (on the way) to an emergency no matter what."

Hoovler said even though individual departments do not pay each other for mutual aid and statistics have shown there is not always an even balance of runs, one department does not shoulder most of the burden.

According to fire department run listings, Olmstead said, Plain Township responds more often to medical runs and receives assistance more often on fire runs.