Fire association to raise funds to help their own in time of need

By MARK I. JOHNSON
Staff Writer

Last update: 28 November 2003


NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- There is a saying that goes something like "prior planning prevents poor performance."

That could be the philosophy of Volusia County Fire Chief's Association's "In the line of duty death benefit" program.

The plan, started 15 months ago on a framework developed by the National Fallen Firefighter's Foundation, provides a set of policies departments can use in dealing with the death of one of their own.

"This is everything from A to Z," said Dave McCallister, pulling out a two-inch thick notebook. "We tweaked it for us."

The notebook contains information, from who to contact in the case of a death to protocols for how to notify the next of kin. It spells out how to offer aid to the affected department or ask for assistance, personal information on department personnel and even plans for a memorial service a year after the initial event.

McCallister, a deputy chief for the New Smyrna Beach Fire Department, sparked the program after learning about the national group during a trip to the national fire academy in Emmitsburg, Md. He brought the idea back to the fire chief's association and that body ran with it.

Edgewater Chief Tracey Barlow said the plan offers an agency the support it needs to deal with the loss without compromising its effectiveness.

"It provides things we may might not be in a mental state to pull together at that time," he said.

Barlow said his department got involved because he came to realize that, while there is the mental attitude that it can't happen here, as the agency grows and responds to more calls, so does the chance of an "in the line of duty" death.

This is not just a Southeast Volusia effort.

Jack Jarrell, division chief for the Ormond Beach Fire Department, said every fire agency in Volusia County is participating in some form.

However, all of the planning in the world can't help if the resources are not there. That is why the fire chiefs have earmarked a fund to finance this assistance.

Jarrell, incoming treasurer for the group, said the money will be used for the immediate needs of a family, such as transportation to the funeral for out-of-town relatives, clothing or even to make sure there is food on the table until state and federal benefits arrive.

That financial assistance helps put Daytona Beach firefighter Michael Harvey's mind at ease.

"This takes that worry (of leaving behind his family without financial support) away," he said.

To help raise the money, the Volusia County Fire Chief's Association is working with Hidden Lakes Golf Club to put on a fund-raising golf tournament.

A shotgun start is slated for 8 a.m. Dec. 6 at the 35 Fairgreen Ave. golf course in New Smyrna Beach. Course professional Lenny Varacelli said the $35 entry fee will provide a round of golf, a cart, lunch and door prizes.

Jarrell said he hopes to raise at least $2,700 with the event.

mark.johnson@news-jrnl.com