Fire Corps Looking for More Members

Saturday, 25 September 2010

By Michael D. Bates, Hernando Today

BROOKSVILLE - When a truck carrying liquid oxygen tipped over Wednesday on a turnoff lane of the Suncoast Parkway, the call went out for the Hernando County Fire Corps.

Emergency personnel wanted the corps there in case one of its people needed on-site rehabilitation or relief.

As it turned out, the corps' services were not needed. But they were there, just in case.

The Hernando County Fire Corps may not be a household name yet. But Stephen Katz hopes that will change as more people join his all-volunteer group.

"Our mission now is to increase our membership from 29 to about 60 to 70," said Katz, the corps' public relations officer.

The corps provides support and rehabilitative services to local firefighters, police officers and emergency workers.

In the last few months, the corps has responded to two Brooksville shooting incidents, a mattress store fire in Spring Hill and a motorcycle bar fire on U.S. 19.

They operate under a federal grant from Citizen Corps, which falls under the umbrella of the federal department of Homeland Security.

It formed about two years ago but has only been active in the last 18 months or so. Katz said its primary mission is to assist firefighters with on-site rehabilitative services.

Here's how it works:

If a fire breaks out, the district chief of the department (Spring Hill, Hernando County or Brooksville) determines whether the situation is bad enough to warrant calling the dispatcher and asking for the corps' services.

The dispatcher's call goes out and the team members get the message via their cell phone. Each member pays $5 a year for a caller deployment system that alerts them to a situation.

Corps volunteers, usually consisting of four to six members, arrive about a half hour later with a pick-up truck and trailer containing water, ice, generator, mister fans and basic medical equipment.

A volunteer team member will take a firefighter's blood pressure and test blood oxygen to make sure they are at proper levels. If not, the corps asks the firefighter to take a break and perhaps cool down with water and ice.

Volunteers offer similar rehabilitative services to deputies, police and other emergency responders. Some corps members help out fire departments with clerical duties or participate in educational fire safety functions.

Corps members undergo an initial 40-hour training course on CPR, AED (automated external defibrillator), patient assessment and carrying techniques, splinting, blood pressure and pulse readings, scene management and other areas of advanced first aid.

A former New York volunteer fireman, Katz, 65, moved to Hernando County in 2001 and decided he wanted to help the community.

"I am a firm believer that you have to give something back," Katz said.

For more information about the Hernando County Fire Corps, call 352-546-4353 or visit its website at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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