HJR 604/SJR 444

Joint Subcommittee to Study Regulations Governing Volunteer Fire Departments and Emergency Medical Services

October 15, 2001, Richmond

The meeting began with an update on the status of efforts being undertaken by the Department of Fire Programs (DFP) and the Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS) to alleviate some of the adverse affects of the reporting requirements.

New Software

The Firehouse software package is used by a majority of fire service providers that are not using the free software provided by DFP. Currently the software package does not provide the reporting data in a format acceptable to the OEMS, which requires fire services providers to complete a second form set to comply with OEMS requirements. The conversion package would allow fire service providers using the Firehouse software to use a single input of data to create reports that would satisfy both the Virginia Fire Incident Reporting System (VFIRS) and the Emergency Medical Services Patient Care Information System (PCIS). Preliminary testing of the conversion program, conducted in Hampton, James City County, Winchester, and York, has been successful, and the conversion program should be available for dissemination to fire service providers within the next 30 days.

In addition, DFP has eliminated the requirement for fire service providers to complete the EMS module of the Fire Incident Reporting System. As a result, fire service providers will no longer have to complete the EMS module in addition to the basic module to comply with the DFP's reporting system.

Members of the joint subcommittees requested that a list of the fire service providers that may benefit from using the conversion program for the Firehouse software package and the different software packages currently used by fire departments be provided at its next meeting. In addition, members also requested an update on the progress of the testing and possible dissemination of the enhanced software.

Interstate Highway Accidents

A review conducted by the Virginia Transportation Research Council of vehicle accidents and crashes on major interstates located in the Commonwealth used data compiled between 1995 and 2000. The findings were exhibited on three colored state maps that highlighted the localities adjacent to the major interstates running through Virginia: Interstates 64, 66, 77, 81, 85 and 95.

Total Incidents

The first map exhibited the changes in the total number of crashes on interstate highways. Increases were noted in (i) Northern Virginia around Interstates 81, 66 and 95; (ii) the Shenandoah region along Interstate 81; (iii) Southwestern Virginia along Interstates 77 and 81, (iv) Henrico County at Interstate 64 and (v) portions of Southside Virginia along Interstates 85 and 95. While most of the areas where vehicle crashes had increased over the five-year period were urban, there were also some rural areas that had experienced increases.

Discussion developed regarding how vehicle crashes are recorded, with particular regard for multi-vehicle crashes. Weather-related multi-vehicle crashes and how they are recorded could have an effect on the overall data. How such accidents are recorded depends a great deal on the state trooper who arrives on the scene, whether more than one officer is involved in responding to the accident, and other factors, such as how close in time and location the accidents occur. Precise data regarding accident causes are difficult to obtain because causal factors are not listed on the accident forms, other than general information regarding road conditions. In addition, officers are reluctant to provide information regarding the cause that may be considered to be an opinion on liability.

Percentage of Incidents on Interstates

The second map exhibited changes in the percentage of total crashes on the interstates. According to the figures displayed on this map, the only percentage increases were noted in Carroll County along Interstate 77, Shenandoah County along Interstate 81, James City County along Interstate 64, and in the Counties of Brunswick, Sussex and Greensville along Interstates 85 and 95.


The third map showed the overall ratios of interstate to non-interstate increases or decreases in total vehicle crashes. The data indicate an overall increase in vehicle crashes on interstates as opposed to crashes on other roads in the same localities along the interstates. Localities in Northern Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, Southwest Virginia and Southside Virginia had an increase in interstate crashes of four or more times the increase in non-interstate crashes. Several localities in Central Virginia had increases in interstate crashes of two to 3.9 times the increase in non-interstate crashes.

Revised maps including localities in the Tidewater region and the figures developed from the data as indicated on the colored maps will be available by the next meeting of the joint subcommittee.

Work Plan

The joint subcommittee then discussed its work plan. Delegate Landes stated that the joint subcommittee should consider a resolution memorializing the United States Congress to consider additional funding assistance to address the increased reliance on local volunteer fire and EMS squads to respond to crashes on interstate highways. Delegate Orrock further suggested a resolution memorializing the Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia Municipal League to look at available means and resources to develop solutions and recommendations to resolve funding as well as recruitment and retention issues related to volunteer fire and EMS squads. The joint subcommittee at its next meeting will review drafts of both resolutions.

The joint subcommittee also developed the following list of requests for information that will be reviewed at its next meeting:

1. How the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia State Police collect vehicle crash data;

2. Annual call volume for volunteer fire and EMS squads by jurisdiction; and

3. How other states deal with recruitment and retention issues.

The next meeting of the joint subcommittee is scheduled for Tuesday, November 27, 2001, at 2:00 p.m. in House Room D of the General Assembly Building in Richmond.

The Honorable R. Steven Landes, Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Amigo Wade


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