Pickerington Times-Sun

Violet Township Fire Department

Safety practices result in national recognition


For the Violet Township Fire Department, promoting health and safety within its ranks not only has resulted in reduced insurance premiums, but some national recognition as well.

The department received the 2013 "Billy Goldfeder Fire Service Organizational Safety Award" at the International Association of Fire Chiefs Conference in Chicago in August.

"It's truly a team effort at every level of the organization and it's something we should be extremely proud of," said John Eisel, chief of the Violet Township Fire Department.

Violet Township was by far the smallest of three fire agencies to receive the prestigious award.

Fire departments from Richmond, Va., and Orange County, Calif., also took home the award that recognizes outstanding commitment or significant contribution in the area of fire service health and safety.

Sept. 4, the Violet Township Trustees issued a proclamation congratulating the fire department for a job well done.

Violet Township's fire department was applauded by the IAFC for improving the health and safety of all of its members by implementing a mandatory seat belt policy and partnering with a physical therapist to treat and prevent injuries.

The department was also credited with utilizing a traffic control device called "Opticom" which ensures that all responding apparatus stop at red lights and stop signs.

Additionally, the department was singled out for its emphasis on preventative medicine, which has reaped tangible benefits.

For example, by requiring annual physicals for all of its more than 80 employees in three successive years, from 2010 to 2012, three potential major cardiac issues were diagnosed and averted and five firefighters were found to have cancerous skin tissue, which was removed.

Violet Fire also created a Fitness Committee composed of two members of each shift who serve as peer fitness mentors.

The fitness mentors use their specialized knowledge to develop and enhance the fitness and conditioning of the organization's members.

Eisel said having a healthier staff is certainly economically beneficial, however, it's also a culture shift that transcends just dollars and cents.

"Quality of life has improved, and even the layout of capital to achieve these things pay for itself," Eisel said.

"We've seen a reduction in Bureau of Worker's Compensation premiums because we reduced frequency and severity (of injuries)," he said.

Eisel said several years ago BWC premiums "were approaching $300,000, now it's less than $100,000."

"When you're talking about the 'quality of life' of the workforce, you can't put a dollar amount on that," he said.

The fire department was also commended for the implementation of a systemwide policy of accident re-enactment, which in turn has allowed it to take corrective measures to prevent future accidents.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of all of you for embracing the culture that all accidents are preventable," said Gary Weltlich, a Violet Township trustee.

He said Violet Townships's department should serve as an example for others.

"When you have success like this, offer yourself as a benchmark," Weltlich said.

"Tell them the lessons you learned," he said.

"How many fire departments do re-enactments after an accident," Weltlich asked Eisel.

"Not many," Eisel said.

"Now it has become a habit for you," Weltlich said.

"That's what makes me really proud," he said. "The culture has changed for the better."