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St. Louis fire chief reports conflict with consultant

St. Louis Area Fire Department Chief Rich Apps has encountered snags in dealing with the trainer/consultant of Lexipol, an organization that helps public safety organizations improve functionality and compliance with law.

Chief Apps told the fire board Tuesday that the consultant has a limited understanding of the challenges faced by volunteer fire departments.

Lexipol has a web-based policy manual that provides more than 150 policies based on federal and state statutes, regulations and law enforcement best practices. According to the company’s website, the policy manual is written by legal and public safety professionals who monitor court decisions, legislation and trends relevant to public safety organizations. It provides regular updates in response to legislative mandates, case law and the evolution of best practices.

Chief Apps and his 25-person volunteer department are trying to implement Lexipol’s policy manual, which Apps expects to take two years to accomplish.

But Lexipol consultant Bill Burns, whose personal experience is wholly with big city fire departments, according to Chief Apps, doesn’t seem to understand volunteer fire departments, Apps told the fire board Tuesday.

For example, Apps said the consultant insisted that state law requires fire departments to make certain fire inspections that St. Louis firefighting personnel are not making. Apps said he told the consultant that these inspections are NOT required by law, but the consultant persisted in saying that they are.

The consultant also pointed out that all firefighters, even volunteers, must be sworn in. But St. Louis firefighters are not sworn in. Chief Apps didn’t dispute that one.

Apps also believes our representatives in Lansing could be better informed about volunteer fire departments. “Our legislators don’t have a good understanding of volunteer departments,” he said.

This reporter emailed state Rep. James Lower, state Rep. Tom Leonard and state Sen. Judy Emmons requesting comment on Chief Apps’ statement but has yet to hear back from them.

Nevertheless, work continues in implementing the Lexipol policy manual. “I think it will be good when we’re done,” Apps told the fire board.

In other fire department news

St. Louis firefighters have tested battery-powered rescue tools that will replace the department’s 12-year-old hydraulic rescue tools, if a grant request is approved.

Chief Apps told fire board members that the spreader and cutter from Hurst Jaws of Life are superior to similar tools from Genesis Rescue Systems.

These battery-operated tools give firefighters more flexibility, as they can be more easily used indoors because they don’t need auxiliary equipment to power them.

The cost for both tools would be about $20,000 but paid for entirely by a grant (if approved).

Chief Apps also told the fire board about a machine that attaches to a backboard and does chest compressions in the event of cardiac arrest. It’s better than having people do chest compressions, Apps said, because it doesn’t get tired like people doing chest compressions do. That machine is also battery operated and costs $16,000. Apps said it’s on his wish list.

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