By Matt de Simone
The Botetourt County Board of Supervisors held recognitions for two county projects involving Botetourt County Fire & EMS: the forming of the Botetourt County Task Force in collaboration with the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office and the Botetourt Girls’ Fire Camp which recently received an award from the Public Relations Society of America.
Botetourt County Fire & EMS Chief Ferguson and Maj. Jeff Boone with the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office presented the Botetourt Rescue Task Force to the board in recognition of their recent work. Botetourt task force members Steve Honaker, Kayla Jones, Jeff Powell, Jon Rodgers, Nathan Shields, and Kevin Smusz were recognized for their efforts in instructing.
“Joint effort is about two major fundamental things for our organizations,” Ferguson explained to the board during a brief presentation featuring information and photos involving the task force. “One is training so that there’s mutually beneficial training on what to do during acts of violence where there’s all kinds of potential things going on. A lot of places have reached this milestone in their progress but a lot of places still don’t talk to each other before the event happens. While we hope this event never happens in Botetourt County, part of our goal is to make sure we train for the worst of the worst so we’re prepared to some degree.”
Ferguson explained this initiative is “a crossover/hybrid area” for Botetourt’s Fire & EMS and law enforcement to work together for better preparedness. He spoke about the training and relationships between law enforcement and Fire & EMS and discussed strategic incident management priorities such as safety, incident stabilization, and property conservation which are fundamentally the task force’s first three priorities.
The fire chief talked about the task force dealing with potential active threat situations. Ferguson mentioned their number one goal is to “stop the shooting, stop the dying.” Fire & EMS and law enforcement members are collaborating for a “unified command” (a joint leadership team) in the instance of an event. Initial objectives/tactical problem sets like addressing and containing a threat were also explained. He spoke about the rescue task force when dealing with an event—forming “stack” of law enforcement in the front and the rear of fire & EMS workers when entering a “major gravity event.” Ferguson concluded by explaining the team’s mass causality incident management and their extraction procedures.
This group of instructors are the first formally trained rescue task force in the valley, according to Maj. Boone.
“Botetourt is the hub of law enforcement and tactical training in the Roanoke Valley,” Boone added. “People as far away as Loudon County—there were folks out of state that came this past spring to Botetourt County to learn how to be instructors in the rescue task force. On behalf of Sheriff Ward, he wanted to say how he appreciates the relationship we’ve built with the fire department over the three or four years. You guys can feel assured that there’s a collaborative effort in the public safety sector of Fire & EMS and the Sheriff’s Office working together and this is representative of that.”
Additionally, Chief Ferguson recognized some of the participants in the Girls Fire Camp, that received a $5,000 grant through the International Association of Fire Chiefs Volunteers Workforce Solutions. The camp was recently featured in the March 2023 Cooperative Living Magazine. Camp registration for 2023 opens on April 3 at 9 a.m. The camp is open for 1st-10th graders with a capacity of 60 spots. The 2023 Girls’ Fire Camp gets underway June 24. Ferguson presented a commemorative plaque to the camp’s instructors and gave each instructor a medal for their participation in the camp.
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