On behalf of the Washington Township Fire District, we are pleased to present to you our 1999 annual report. The past year has been one of much change that has included: a change in our philosophy of operations, technological changes, and changes in our service responsibilities. These changes have had a direct impact on our ability to provide a high level of cost efficient, quality service to you, our customers. A new, redefined fire district mission statement best reflects our strategy of what kind of service we provide, to whom we provide it, and how we expect to accomplish it.
In an effort to maintain a strong and viable volunteer fire fighting force, the districts staff of eleven full-time fire fighters provides coverage for fire department service from 6:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. Monday through Friday. In addition to their emergency response duties, full-time fire fighters are busy maintaining our fire department facilities and equipment, inspecting commercial occupancies for fire code compliance, providing fire safety education programs, and performing other related work activities. Our full-time force supports our vital volunteer force by handling routine incidental fire calls during the day and augmenting the total fire fighting resources needed for actual fires and other serious emergencies.
In 1998, responses to faulty and accidental fire alarm system calls amounted to approximately 52% of our total emergency response call load. By analyzing the data influencing the causes of these alarms and by initiating corrective action when necessary, in 1999, we were able to reduce our responses to these types of calls to 34%, leaving our volunteer and full-time personnel more readily available for actual emergencies.
Since assuming direct responsibility for providing rescue services in late 1998 to Washington Township, the fire department delivery of these essential and varied services now represent 11% of our total call volume. To meet this public need, the district modified two of our engines with some limited rescue equipment in Grenloch and Whitman Square. By mid-February of this year, we will place a heavy rescue truck in Hurffville. The new heavy rescue will supplement the two rescue-engines and will be equipped with a wide array of rescue and fire support equipment. Fire department members throughout the district have undergone an extensive amount of training to ensure the rescue service we provide is of the highest quality.
As a leader in utilizing new technologies, the Washington Township Fire District became the first fire department in Gloucester County to acquire and place in service a thermal imaging camera. Thermal imaging cameras enable fire fighters to literally see through dense smoke to locate fire victims, find fires in walls, or locate hot objects before they erupt into a fire. The camera represents state-of-the-art technology that clearly enables us to perform our job more efficiently and effectively. Members of the fire district worked closely with our 4th district state legislatures, Senator Matheusen and Assemblymen Geist and Luongo, who sponsored bills in their respective houses to provide grants to fire departments throughout the state to purchase these new tools. The legislation, which was signed by the governor in October of 1999, will enable Washington Township to purchase two additional cameras to place on other fire district apparatus.
In parallel with a long-term program initiated by the New Jersey State Firemens Association (NJSFA), the district has forwarded new information to the Insurance Service Office (ISO), regarding the fire protection rating assigned to Washington Township. The rating affects commercial and residential fire insurance premiums for protected properties within the jurisdiction. While we have not technically undergone a new rating review, we do anticipate one soon and hope to improve our rating substantially. Some residents with a mailing address in Sewell have already benefited by receiving rebates from the insurance companies as a result of NJSFAs effort to correctly code Washington Township properties with an ISO Class 4 rating.
To ensure all of the services we provide are fiscally efficient, the fire district along with other township entities will undergo a detailed local government budget review process conducted by the New Jersey Department of the Treasury. This process will analyze our operations, our physical resources, our personnel, and the cost to the taxpayers in providing our service. The report, which should be complete in about six months, will make recommendations for improvements and will also identify practices recommended to other municipal agencies.
Finally, and the third consecutive year, the fire district tax rate will remain at 13 cents per $100.00 of assessed property value. We are proud to be able to expand our services yet maintain this rate. We certainly hope you agree and we hope you will exercise your rights by casting your vote in the fire district election on February 19, 2000.
We look forward to continue performing our proud and vital mission to you, your family, and neighbors throughout the year, and yet we pray you will never need our services.
View of the 1998 Annual Report
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