The app is called SirenGPS.

March 3, 2016 - KSDK Casey Nolen, KSDK

If you need help in an emergency and call 911 from your cell phone, chances are the smart phone app Uber could find you faster than first responders. That's the warning from the commissioner of the FCC who says 911 service hasn't kept up with smart phone technology.

Now a St. Louis startup, SirenGPS, is working on an app that could allow smart phone users to dial 911 and send specific location information to the operator that the current 911 system doesn't receive.

"The technology they have is outdated and they can't reach your phone," says Paul Rauner with SirenGPS.

This month West County Fire and EMS will be the first in the country to test SirenGPS. First, only using its community communication features to send out information for emergencies like weather.

In the future, they may consider using the app to allow people to use the 911 dialing feature.

The FCC is trying to improve the way 911 locates cell phones with new standards that will be phased in over the next five years.

But even those standards only expect 40% of calls to be located within 50 meters by 2017.

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February 15, 2016 - KTVI BY ANDY BANKER

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. - Fire wiped out a Ballwin home and sparked a warning from firefighters about a very prevalent, but hidden danger in St. Louis area houses: aluminum wiring.

A West County EMS & Fire "Helmet Cam" showed the extensive damage to a home in the 900 Block of Glen Mill Drive late Saturday afternoon.

Homeowners often overlook aluminum wiring. It's popular in homes across the area, built from the mid-60's to mid-70's.

You need to know if it's in your house, firefighters said Monday.

The residents on Glen Mill Drive thought they had already had the fire put out when they called the fire department.

"They found this outlet downstairs in the first floor, that was actually on fire, had flames coming out of the outlet," said Dan Bruno, Fire Marshal for West County EMS & Fire.

The residents doused the outlet with an extinguisher and saw no more flames, he said.

A few minutes later it was obvious the problem went beyond a bad electrical outlet.

The fire actually started in a bank of light switches on the sun porch attached to the back of the house where newer copper wiring was tied into the home's original aluminum wiring, Bruno said.

"What happens is, that aluminum and copper wiring expand and contrast at different rates; it starts to separate, arcs across, a lot of carbon buildup. It's just going to start a fire," he said. "It burned completely through the 2x4's in the wall and it started running laterally in the wall. It came out a different outlet. That's when the occupants saw fire coming out the outlet."

By that point fire had spread from the exterior porch throughout the walls of the house, he said.

Firefighters urge homeowners to see if they have aluminum wiring.

"It doesn't make the house unsafe. It just means that the wiring in the house needs to be checked out by an electrician and maybe have some things done," Bruno said.

One common mistake: using standard light switches and outlets with aluminum wiring.

The standard switches and outlets that are so popular today are not rated for aluminum wiring.

There are also special connectors made for joining copper and aluminum wiring. An electrician can check for you.

Here's a link for more information about aluminum wiring in your home.

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January 12, 2016 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson

The West County EMS/FPD and Town & Country are taking steps toward a new contract setting terms and conditions for the district's providing its services to the city.

The city's Board of Aldermen approved a first reading of the new agreement in December and was expected to take final action at its Jan. 11 meeting (after presstime). West County's Board of Directors had unanimously endorsed the contract at its Dec. 21 meeting.

The effective date of the new five-year pact is Jan. 1, 2017. The current agreement doesn't end until Dec. 31, 2016; however, should either party want to change any of the contract's provisions, it is required to notify the other party at least one year in advance of the contract's expiration.

Negotiations on a new agreement began several months ago after West County voters last April approved a 30-cent increase in the district's general fund real estate and personal property tax levy. The tax hike goes into effect this year. The higher levy does not apply to Town & Country property owners because West County's fire and emergency medical services to the community are governed by the contract between the two entitites.

Under the new contract, Town & Country will pay West County $3.44 million annually for its services in 2017, compared with the 2015 payment of approximately $3.3 million. The annual charge beyond 2017 is subject to the Consumer Price Index, but any increase is capped at no more than 3 percent.

A new provision calls for an additional payment of nearly $157,000 annually for capital resources such as emergency vehicles and related equipment.

In turn, West County will pay Town & Country $152,000 annually for use of the firehouse near the Mason-Clayton Road intersection. That amount also will be subject to CPI adjustments and compares with the $149,000 budgeted for firehouse rental in 2016.

The location is manned 24/7 by West County firefighter/paramedics.

Another change in the new agreement is the elimination of the fire marshal services that West County has provided and the splitting of inspection fees between the city and district. According to Town & Country City Administrator Gary Hoelzer, the city will handle those inspection duties beginning in 2017 and will retain all related fee income.

Hoelzer described the new agreement as a win-win arrangement and expects aldermen to approve it.

"I've heard no concerns voiced about the agreement," he said, adding that the board was actively represented in the contract negotiating process.

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West County EMS and Fire Protection District firefighter/paramedic Daniel R. Roderick (left), Capt. David P. Klump (center) and Deputy Chief Timothy J. Dorsey at the Missouri Medal of Valor ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. Photo courtesy of the fire protection district.

December 16, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

A Manchester police officer who crawled through a burning apartment to rescue a trapped resident and three paramedics who treated FBI agents injured in a shootout were awarded the Missouri Medal of Valor by the governor Wednesday.

They were among nine awarded the medal by Gov. Jay Nixon in a ceremony at the Capitol Wednesday.

The Manchester police officer, Anthony K. Davis, was honored for his efforts to save the residents of a burning apartment on Jan. 3, 2014.

He and another officer arrived at the fire before firefighters. They entered to help residents out. Davis helped one woman escape, then heard a man trapped on the third floor and calling for help, according to a statement from Nixon's office.

Davis was forced back by thick smoke the first time he tried to save the man. He tried again by crawling, keeping beneath the densest smoke, and found the man. He led the man out, crawling along a hallway and down the stairs. He then went in to help another person out before being treated himself for effects of the smoke. He was taken to a hospital and later released.

The West County EMS and Fire Protection District paramedics were called the scene of an standoff with a man who had killed his mother and shot a University City police officer on Nov. 24, 2014.

Deputy Chief Timothy J. Dorsey, Capt. David P. Klump and firefighter/paramedic Daniel R. Roderick, wearing body armor and tactical helmets to protect them, treated an FBI agent hit in the chest and shoulder during a shootout at a Hanley Hills home where the fugitive was holed up on Nov. 25-26. They also treated a second FBI agent who was shot in the leg, all "amidst battlefield-type conditions," according to the governor's statement.

The suspect, identified as Major Washington, was killed in the shootout, but the FBI provided few details about the circumstances of the shooting.

The statement from Nixon's office about the Medal of Valor awards says a tactical team entered the Hanley Hills house after trying to negotiate with the gunman for seven hours. Within minutes, there were gunshots and shouts for medics, the release says. FBI agents and the gunman exchanged shots, and the house caught on fire.

The injured FBI agents were pulled out of the house for treatment. Both agents recovered.

The initial shooting of the University City officer came the night of the announcement of no charges against then-Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson. It was unrelated to protests following the announcement, but FBI agents were involved because county police requested their help with resources spread thin that night.

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December 1, 2015 - West Newsmagazine

Thanks to a voter-approved increase in its general fund tax levy and a nearly 3.7 percent boost in assessed property valuations, the West County EMS and Fire Protection District expects nearly 37 percent more general fund revenue in 2016 than in 2015, according to figures in its preliminary budget.

The West County Board of Directors received the spending plan at a mid-November meeting and is expected to vote on a final version in December.

Total projected general fund revenues this year are estimated at $5.761 million while income expected next year is set at $7.889 million. The general fund is by far the largest of five funds for which the district levies taxes on real estate and personal property.

Last April, West County voters approved an increase of 30 cents per $100 assessed valuation, raising the general fund levy from 42.8 cents per $100 assessed valuation to 72.8 cents. The tax increase did not affect levies for the district's ambulance, dispatch, pension and debt service funds.

General fund personnel-related expenditures are projected to be just over $1 million higher in 2016, reflecting an increase in wages included in a new collective bargaining agreement approved last summer and the reassignment of six employees from the ambulance fund to the general fund. Other major cost increases include a 20.85 percent hike in medical and workers compensation insurance premiums.

Total general fund spending next year is projected at almost $7.260 million, leaving an estimated $629,000 for general fund reserves. Boosting the general fund reserve is a step the district had told voters it would take if the tax increase was approved.

Increases and decreases in various income and spending categories in the ambulance, dispatch, pension and debt service funds are minimal and do not have a major impact on changes in the district's 2016 budget.

The ambulance fund will be down to $3.3 million, compared with this year's $3.4 million. The district also will collect and then pass about $356,000 in revenues received from a levy to fund services from the Central County Emergency 911 dispatching operation.

Similarly, funds received to pay for the district's pension program will total about $1.13 million. The district expects to have about $38,000 remaining to add to pension fund reserves.

Revenues for paying interest and retiring debt on earlier-issued bonds authorized by voters and to purchase capital equipment will total nearly $1.8 million. Major capital purchases anticipated in 2016's spending of about $231,000 include three staff vehicles, fitness equipment and furniture, and communications, computer and training equipment.

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Firefighter-paramedics remove the top of a vehicle during an accident simulation in which a car has been pinned under tractor trailer. (West Newsmagazine/Jim Erickson photo)

October 20, 2015 - West Newsmagazine

Firefighter-paramedics from throughout Eastern Missouri and as far away as Kansas City came to the West County EMS and Fire Protection District training center on Manchester Road for a program designed to sharpen their knowledge and skills in emergency extrication techniques.

Nearly 100 first responders from 27 fire protection districts and departments participated in the program, which included a half-day of classroom instruction and a half-day of demonstrations and hands-on practice in how to reach and extricate victims trapped beneath heavy objects and in various types of vehicle accidents. A similar agenda applied to a separate attendee group on the following day.

A safety team from Holmatro, a Netherlands-based company with manufacturing facilities in Glen Burnie, Maryland, conducted the program. The firm makes hydraulic equipment and systems used for rescue, industrial and special tactics operations around the world.

Using actual vehicles, the extrication scenarios included cars in a variety of situations such as having one on its side in a location where access was difficult, another upside down with the roof caved in, one having other crush damage, and one run underneath the trailer of a semi. A mannequin also was partially pinned under a more than two-ton concrete slab for demonstrating how to use power tools to free victims trapped under heavy objects.

While West County EMS/FPD did not receive any of the $99 per participant registration fee, Chief Ernie Rhodes said the district was "money ahead" in serving as host of the training rather than paying travel expenses and fees of up to $1,000 each for its firefighters to attend such a program elsewhere. Fifteen district personnel took part in the training here.

West County's training center, which includes its Safety House for teaching children and other family members how to deal with home fires and other emergencies, is located behind Station 2 at 13790 Manchester Road. Viewed as one of the best operations of its type in the area, the facility was financed with part of the funds from a $19 million bond issue approved by West County voters in 2008.

In addition to conducting the program, Holmatro handled other logistics for the sessions, including arrangements for vehicles used in the training, supplying all the power tools, and providing the featured speaker, a doctor who serves as medical director of the Road to Indy Racing Series and the company's safety team physician.

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September 15, 2015 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson

Personnel of the West County EMS/FPD took center stage at the district's Board of Directors meeting on Sept. 9.

Three firefighter/paramedics received promotions, three others were recognized for their life-saving efforts and two others joined the department.

The promotions came about as a way to expand the district's training efforts. Promoted to captain to be in charge of training on West County's three work shifts were veteran firefighter/paramedics Dave Klump, Dan Burnett and Kevin Smith.

According to Dave Cobb, board chairman, the district has wanted to increase its emphasis on training and opted to promote three qualified employees to achieve that goal instead of hiring additional personnel.

Cobb noted that West County's ongoing training efforts paid off in an unexpected way during an exercise last month at House No. 2. During a training program, a participating member of the Creve Coeur Fire Protection District suffered a cardiac arrest. The response of four West County firefighter/paramedics in providing emergency care at the scene and while rushing the stricken man to the hospital was credited with saving his life.

Recognized at the board meeting for their efforts were the just-promoted Klump, Eric Heimos, Rob Hollman and Brian Heppermann.

In addition, it was announced that Corey Meyer and John Craig have joined West County as firefighter-paramedics to fill positions created by two recent resignations.

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August 25, 2015 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson

- Firefighters and command officers at the West County EMS and Fire Protection District have a new collective bargaining agreement in place five months early.

While firefighters' wages, benefits and other working conditions have been covered for a number of years by collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the board and the International Association of Firefighters Local 2665, the formal agreement with the command staff is a first for West County. But it's a precedent that Board Chairman Dave Cobb describes as "absolutely a good thing.

"We have a good team of people here and we want to keep them," he said.In general, the new agreement with firefighters calls for an immediate pay increase of approximately 2 percent with additional 1 percent hikes scheduled yearly from 2016 through 2018. The contract went into effect late in July, some five months before the current pact's expiration at years end. It will conclude early in January 2019.

The previous agreement froze the hourly base pay rates for all personnel from probationary firefighters through the rank of captain at the levels effective when it went into effect early in 2012.

A firefighter/paramedic with at least 60 months of service now has an hourly wage of $30.20, compared with $29.61 paid from 2012 until the new agreement went into effect in last month. As in many St. Louis County fire districts, West County firefighters work two, 24-hour shifts and then are off four days. During a regular 28-day pay period, they are on duty for 212 hours before overtime pay at a rate of time-and-a-half applies.

Other significant changes in the new contract include:

- An accelerated schedule for earning vacation days, with a maximum of 20 shift days off for those with 25 years of service. The previous schedule included a maximum of 15 shift days off after 20 years of service. A shift day is one 24-hour, on-duty day.

- A fitness incentive of $1,250 annually to pay for fitness training, health club membership and/or fitness and aerobic training expenses. However, no specific proof of fitness-related expenses is required and the payment will be paid to everyone the new contract covers. Cobb said the fitness issue is an important one and remains under discussion with the goal of developing reasonable fitness standards.

- A labor-management initiative (LMI) that includes the chief, union shop steward and their selected representatives whose task will be to meet labor-management principles developed jointly by union leaders and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.

- An annual payment of $1,000 to any employee who attains special skills, as determined by the LMI.

Other benefits continued from the previous contract include:

- Payments, ranging from $200-$1,000, to paramedics for successful renewal of their licenses.

- Paid sick leave of up to 168 hours annually for 24-hour shift employees. Unused sick leave can be accumulated and carried over to subsequent years, up to a maximum of 1,680 shift hours.

- Salary continuation at the regular pay rate for up to 90 days after an on-duty injury. The district pays the difference between any worker's compensation payment and the employee's regular earnings.

- Health insurance paid by the district for each employee and eligible dependents.

- A longevity pay bonus after five years of service. The bonus begins at 2.5 percent of the employee's pay and increases in half-percent increments up to a maximum of 7 percent after 14 years of service.

- Ten paid holidays, with employees scheduled to work on any of those days receiving an extra $100.

- A $500 uniform allowance annually and a $450 yearly payment for uniform maintenance.

- Payment of tuition and books for college courses related to the employee's job, up to a bachelor's degree. The employee must receive a grade of "C" or better to receive the reimbursement.

Provisions in the officers' agreement closely follow those in the union contract. No individual staff member's salary is mentioned but percentage increases matching those of firefighters are called for.

Cobb said the board is facing the problem of salary compression among its command staff and the pay at one level is close to that received by an officer at the next level.

"We know we need to fix that because there isn't much incentive for anyone to accept the greater responsibilities that come with a promotion," Cobb said. "But the budget doesn't allow us to fix everything at once, so we just need to do what we can now, knowing there's still more to be done."

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July 24, 2015 - West Newsmagazine By: Jim Erickson

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Area fire departments are finding that while there is strength in numbers, bigger numbers also have the potential to save money.

Three West County departments are joining together to seek bid proposals on rescue-pumper fire trucks needed for their respective operations. A fourth may join the group before the bid requests are released.

At the July 6 meeting of the West County EMS and Fire Protection District Board, directors approved seeking bids for the new equipment. The Des Peres and Frontenac fire departments also are joining the process, as both also are in the market for new vehicles.

According to West County Deputy Chief Dave Frazier, each department will be able to specify its own paint color scheme on the truck it receives. However, the three entities worked together to draft a common set of specifications to be used in seeking the truck bids.

New rescue pumpers generally are priced in the $500,000 to $600,000 range, depending on what factory-installed equipment is ordered. The savings generated by buying the three vehicles, and possibly a fourth, at one time presumably won't be known until specific proposals are received.

Des Peres Chief Keith Krumm said that, while the proposed buy is the first involving fire trucks, it is not that city's first collaboration. "Many years ago," the city took part in a group purchase of ambulances, Krumm said. Likewise, the three departments teamed up earlier this year with counterparts in Brentwood, Valley Park and Central County in St. Charles County to buy self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) equipment. As is the case with the trucks, the participating departments agreed on a common set of specifications for the SCBA gear. Tim Dorsey, West County deputy chief, said that purchase was an offshoot of joint training exercises, which revealed differences in the equipment used by the various departments. Everyone having gear that works the same way can be crucial when firefighters from different entities are working side by side on a major fire or other disaster, he noted.

Frontenac Chief Jack Trout said joint purchase efforts mesh well with urgings from city officials "to think outside the box" in finding ways to provide equal or better services with fewer taxpayer dollars. Because West County and Frontenac firefighters have trained together, making joint purchases was "right up our alley," Trout said.

"These kinds of things also build better working relationships," he said.

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Photo by KMOV

July 22, 2015 - KMOV By Dan Greenwald, Online News Producer

BALLWIN, MO. - Firefighters said a house fire broke out near Ballwin Tuesday evening.

Firefighters from three different departments battled the the blaze in the 1100 block of Pinrun.

Authorities said everyone inside made it out unharmed.

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Drunk driving demonstrations are one of the progams offered through the West County EMS/FPD Safety House.

July 6, 2015 - West Newsmagazine

- When Kelly Cobb took the reins as executive director of the Safety House Foundation, she knew it might be a short-term arrangement because much would depend on how successful the organization was in accomplishing its mission and gaining financial support in the process.

Earlier formed as an independent non-profit entity through the sponsorship of the West County EMS and Fire Protection District, the foundation uses the district's safety house at 13790 Manchester Road to educate school-age children and their families about home and community safety. Or at least that was the plan when the facility was built with some of the proceeds from a 2012 bond issue approved by district voters.

The safety house is one part of a larger structure that includes a second wing devoted to professional training for firefighter-paramedics. A nearby burn tower used in training for live fire situations also is part of the overall complex located behind West County's Station 2.Until recently, neither the safety house nor the professional training facilities were being used at anything approaching their potential, and that bothered Dave Cobb.

Originally appointed to the district's board nearly two years ago to fill an unexpired term, Dave has since been re-elected to a full term. He also serves as the board's chairman and, yes, he also is Kelly's husband.

"I felt we needed to do more to get our facilities going - especially the safety house - and doing what they were designed to do," Dave said in an interview with West Newsmagazine.One of the first steps was to establish the Safety House Foundation in 2013.

The district called on educators and others in the community to help shape the fledgling organization's direction and goals. Because of Kelly's background in education (she holds a master's degree in elementary education), her part-time work in the Rockwood School District's Parents as Teachers program, and her awareness of the district through her husband's board involvement, she agreed to serve as a volunteer.

Other volunteers included Jimmy Gehm, a teacher at Sorrento Springs Elementary School in the Parkway School District, and Sarah Rakers, a teacher at Parkway's Carman Trails Elementary. Suzy Morris, vice president of treasury operations and e-banking at Pulaski Bank, also joined the group.

As of last fall, Morris, Rakers and Gehm took over as the Foundation's Board of Directors, serving as president, secretary and treasurer, respectively.

"That's when I stepped out of the picture," Dave said. "And I was glad to do so because I knew we had three very capable people in charge of the foundation."

"We concluded that if we were going to do things right, we needed to have someone in charge and responsible for making sure activities were scheduled properly, that necessary arrangements were made and followed up on and basically to go out into the community to let people know about the resources the safety house had," Gehm said. "We originally thought about trying to attract a retired educator, but we quickly realized we had the right person for the job here already."

That person was Kelly, whom the board hired initially on a part-time basis.

"I wasn't involved in any way in that decision-making and I'm glad I wasn't," Dave asserted. "It was the foundation directors' decision to make and, for obvious reasons, there's no way I would have wanted to be involved in that."

Activities at the safety house picked up quickly after Kelly took the reins. In 2014, the safety house attracted 1,000 visitors. But, as of the end of May this year, the number of people coming to the facility for its various programs already was up to 1,600.

As of the first of March and with financial support on the rise, the foundation board opted to make Kelly's position full-time as executive director. Her annual salary of $50,000 includes no pension or other benefits.

While most of the safety house educational efforts target younger people through school classroom, Scouting groups and other visits, parents also are learning from them.

"We've had parents tell us they've never used a fire extinguisher before or realized that whenever possible, bedroom doors should be closed at night to provide an extra barrier in case of fire. After the programs they've attended with their kids, they know those things now," Kelly said.

Gehm said his goal as a Safety House Foundation director is to "use it to the hilt. Not just kids and parents from the district and West County but from wherever. It's all about safety and saving lives," he said.

Now operating independently from the West County EMS and Fire Protection District, the foundation has received gold sponsor support from Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center and Mercy Health Systems.

As for the professional firefighter-paramedic training facility, additional steps also are being taken by to boost its utilization. At the West County June 1 board meeting, an agreement with the St. Louis County Fire Academy was approved to make West County's premises available for the academy's programs with daily fees charged for usage.

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June 2, 2015 - West Newsmagazine

A local television news reporter has been hired as liaison officer at the West County EMS and Fire Protection District.

In the newly created position, Sara Dayley, a reporter at KSDK-Channel 5 for the past five years, will focus on community outreach efforts, which the district has identified as an important part of its future activities.

According to West County Chief Ernie Rhodes, Dayley will meet with community groups and organizations to learn about needs that the district can help address, and call attention to and bring more people to Safety House, a facility that emphasizes safety education for children, families and others.

"These efforts are in line with what our long-range strategic plan found the community wanted us to do," Rhodes said.

Dayley's media experience also will be helpful in producing videos to educate the public on safety and emergency medical issues, Rhodes added.

A graduate of Marquette High, Dayley earned a degree in mass communications from the University of Tampa. Her annual salary at West County will be $65,000.

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Photo by St. Louis Post Dispatch

April 15, 2015 - St. Louis Post Dispatch By Joe Holleman

KSDK loses another on-air reporter; Sara Dayley leaving -

Time to wave good-bye to KSDK (Channel 5) reporter Sara Dayley, who will leave the station next week.

Dayley said her last day will be Wednesday, and then she will become the community liaison officer (spokesperson, in civilian-speak) with the West County EMS & Fire.

"Growing up in St. Louis, working at KSDK was something I've always wanted to do and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to be around some of the best in the business," Dayley said.

"I won't miss the 1:30 alarm," she concluded, "but I will miss waking up with everyone in the mornings and being invited into their homes."

Dayley, who joined KSDK in 2010, is a Marquette High grad and daughter of former Cards pitcher Ken Dayley. Before that, Dayley covered numerous motor sports events across the continent, including IHRA drag racing.

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Photo by KTVI

April 26, 2015 - KTVI BY CHRIS SMITH

MANCHESTER, MO. - The first annual safe kids day festival was held in Manchester Sunday. Today was the opening of a new safety house by Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center in conjunction with West County EMS and Fire Protection District. Safety house is a state-of-the-art learning center and injury prevention initiative that provides classroom and hands-on education for children and their parents.

The facility also teaches pedestrian safety, bike safety, seasonal injury education as well as home and environmental safety tips.

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April 21, 2015 - West Newsmagazine

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - For the first time in almost a year, the West County EMS and Fire Protection District Board of Directors is back at full strength.

The board achieved that status at its April 20 meeting when David Cobb (left) and Matt Miller took the oath of office, joining Robert Levine on the three-member governing body. Charles Billings, West County's legal counsel, administered the oath in front of a small group of West County personnel and other onlookers.

Both Cobb and Miller ran for the two seats up for election in voting this month and, because they faced no opposition, the board opted not to go to the expense of having their names placed on the ballot. After the April 7 election, both men were certified as the winners.

West County had been operating with just two directors since last June when then-chairman Richard "Rick" Rognan unexpectedly resigned after serving 15 years on the board. The law permits a fire district board to appoint someone to fill a vacancy but also says the two directors making such an appointment must be elected.

Cobb was appointed by the board in 2013 to fill the position formerly held by Miller who had resigned when he took a new job as principal of Wren Hollow Elementary School in the Parkway School District.

As a result, the remaining alternatives were to ask the Circuit Court to make an appointment or operate with a two-member board until the next election. Cobb and Levine opted for the latter, with Cobb taking over as chairman and Levine serving as both secretary and treasurer.When the filing period for the April 7 election opened several months ago, Miller submitted his candidacy for the four years remaining on Rognan's term while Cobb sought election to his first six-year term.

In the board reorganization that followed the swearing in, Cobb was re-elected chairman while Levine and Miller were named secretary and treasurer, respectively.

In other action resulting from the election earlier this month, the board officially received certification of the passage of Proposition F, which asked voter approval to raise the district's operating fund tax levy by 30 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The measure passed with some 52.7 percent of the ballots cast in favor of it.

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March 24, 2015 - West Newsmagazine

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center and the West County EMS and Fire Protection District's Safety House and Safety House Foundation have announced they will work together to provide classroom and hands-on education for children and their parents.

Expansion of Safety House's current focus on injury prevention and protecting families in residential fires will include car seat safety, poison control and pediatric first aid. Pedestrian safety, bike safety, seasonal injury education and home and environmental safety tips also will be emphasized.

"We want to make safety and injury prevention education fun," said Paula Szwargulski, director of emergency and trauma services at Cardinal Glennon. "Safety House is the perfect venue for that."

Located behind West County's Station 2 at 13790 Manchester Road, Safety House is part of the Safety House Foundation, LLC, a non-profit Missouri corporation formed after the facility was built in 2008.

"Our programming and facilities are what the residents of our district and people throughout the St. Louis area have said they need and value most," said Harry Hamm, West County's development specialist. "With the presence of SSM Cardinal Glennon on our physical site, we will have such a greater impact on benefiting our residents."

Cardinal Glennon and Safety House will celebrate their collaboration at a yet-to-be-scheduled grand reopening this spring.v Under terms of the three-year agreement, Safety House Foundation will receive $30,000 yearly from Cardinal Glennon for use of the facilities, office space and utilities at Station 2.

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Matthew Hogan (left) with Chief Rhodes. Photo by West County EMS & Fire Protection District

March 16, 2015 - West County EMS & Fire Protection District

ST. LOUIS - Congratulations to Matthew M. Hogan, West County's newest Captain. Matt was officially promoted at today's regularly scheduled District Board meeting by Chief Ernie Rhodes.

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February 9, 2015 - West Newsmagazine

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - The proposed tax rate increase for the West County EMS and Fire Protection District's general fund won't directly affect those who receive the district's services under contract. But the district wants to find a funding solution that is "fair" to taxpayers, as well as those served under contract.

In terms of area and population, Town & Country is the largest entity that West County serves under contract. This year, the community will pay the district almost $3.37 million for fire and emergency medical services. More than $2 million of that total will go into the general fund, with the remainder going into the ambulance and pension funds.

The West County board late last month approved a proposal for a general fund tax levy increase of 30 cents per $100 assessed valuation on real estate and personal property. The issue will be submitted to voters April 7.

David Cobb, West County's board chairman, said preliminary discussions have been held with Town & Country but no agreement has been reached on how a tax increase paid by others in the district will affect the amount paid by the city under its contract. That agreement extends through the end of next year and isn't affected by the tax increase proposal presented to other voters in the district.

"Our goal is simply to be fair to everyone," Cobb stated.

West County's general fund tax rate of 42.8 cents per $100 assessed valuation on residential real estate is the largest of five levies totaling just over 96 cents. Other levies are for ambulance, pension, dispatch and debt service, and those funds are not affected by the proposed increase. The 30 cents to be voted on represents a 31 percent increase in West County's overall residential property tax rate. The current total levy on personal property would increase from $1 to $1.30, a 30 percent hike.

West County officials say district real estate values have remained flat in recent years and income from the current tax levy has not kept pace with rising costs, causing the district to dip into its reserves to make up the shortfall.

If the tax increase is approved, plans also call for more community outreach efforts, increased training and a raise for firefighter-paramedics, whose pay scale hasn't changed for several years.

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January 26, 2015 - West Newsmagazine
By: Jim Erickson

WEST ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Voters in the West County EMS and Fire Protection District will have a substantial tax increase proposal presented to them.

At its Jan. 21 meeting, the West County Board of Directors approved a tax proposal that calls for a general fund tax levy boost of 30 cents per $100 assessed valuation on real estate and personal property.

The district serves a resident population of some 51,000 in Manchester, Town & Country, parts of Winchester, Valley Park, Ballwin, Des Peres and Twin Oaks and unincorporated areas of St. Louis County.

West County's general fund tax rate is the largest of the five levies included in its overall tax bill, which now stands at just over 96 cents per $100 assessed valuation on residential real estate and $1 per $100 assessed valuation on personal property.

The 30 cents to be voted on represents a 31 percent increase in the total residential tax levy, although the increase in the general fund rate, now 42.8 cents, would be 70 percent.The district has separate tax levies for its ambulance, pension, dispatch and debt service funds, but those are not affected by the proposed general fund increase.

In a brief discussion of the reasoning behind the tax increase proposal, Cobb and Levine noted before the board vote that real estate values in the district basically have remained flat in recent years. As a result, income generated by the current tax levy has not kept pace with rising expenditures and the district has dipped into reserves to make up the difference.

Current budget projections indicate that nearly $300,000 in reserve funds will be needed to pay all the bills this year. However, based on the current real estate and personal property assessments in the district, the proposed increase will generate considerably more than that amount.

In comments after the meeting, Cobb said plans also call for an increase in community outreach efforts. He noted that safety-related education programs such as fall prevention and fire prevention as examples of those efforts and added that many people are unaware of services already available, such as smoke detector inspection.

"Some people think they'll be charged if they call 911," he stated.

Modest increases in staff as part of the outreach and increased training efforts, as well as a pay increase for firefighters, whose pay scale hasn't been changed in several years, also are anticipated if voters approve the higher levy.

District officials said a recent strategic planning project showed residents wanted more community outreach, along with the best possible training and competitive wages for West County personnel.

Much of the outreach effort will center on the district's safety house built behind the West County fire station on Manchester Road and paid for with a portion of the bond issue funds approved by voters in 2008, Cobb said.

According to Dave Frazier, West County's deputy chief, there has not been a voter-approved increase in the general fund tax levy since 1987.

If voters OK the 30-cent increase, West County's overall tax levy will be well above neighboring Metro West and Monarch fire protection districts. Metro West's total tax levy is $1.057 per $100 assessed evaluation on residential property; 50.8 cents of that goes for the general fund alone. Monarch's total is 82.9 cents per $100 assessed evaluation, with 42.9 cents of that for the general fund.

West County's overall tax levy on residential real estate would move to $1.262 per $100 assessed valuation, with the general fund rate accounting for 72.8 cents of the total. For a West County residence appraised at $150,000 and assessed at 19 percent of that amount, or $28,500, property taxes would increase $85.50 per year.

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Photo by West County EMS & Fire Protection District

January 9, 2015 - West County EMS & Fire Protection District

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Congratulation to Captain Gary L. Halfacre, retiring from West County EMS & Fire after 31 years of service to the community.

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January 5, 2015 - KTVI BY JEFF BERNTHAL

ST. LOUIS - It is a busy time for area fire departments. This cold snap has first responders issuing a number of warnings. One of those warnings is to stay off ponds that appear frozen. It seems each year someone falls through ice. It doesn't take long for hypothermia to put a life at risk.

Area plumbers are also preparing for a busy week. They hope homeowners will take precautions when it comes to keeping pipes from freezing. If they do freeze, one area fire chief warns of a potential fire danger.

"I have been to so many fires where people use a blow torch to thaw their pipes," says Chief Ernie Rhodes, West County EMS & Fire Protection District. "As they're thawing the pipe, the heat is conducted up the pipe and that starts a fire in the wall."

It isn't too cold for skiers, snowboarders and snow tubers at Hidden Valley. They hit the slopes Monday night after the resort made more snow.

General Manager Bill Brandes says technology is catching up with the weather. He was wearing heated gloves that were battery-powered.

"Enjoy your sport but think sensibly," said Brandes. "Dress accordingly and warm up once in a while."?

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Photo by West County EMS & Fire Protection District

November 17, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network By: Jim Erickson

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - West County EMS and Fire Protection District wants to have a draft of its 10-year strategic plan ready for review by year-end.

That's the goal the district set after the last of its public input sessions for "Blueprint 2025 - A Safer Community," the title given to the planning effort.

The public meeting series was held to gather citizen input on expectations for the district that serves Manchester, Town & Country, and portions of Winchester, Valley Park, Ballwin, Des Peres and Twin Oaks and unincorporated St. Louis County. And while the initial meeting in August drew what West County leaders viewed as a good turnout, attendance fell at later sessions.

"We reached out to the community in every way we could" by talking with community leaders, by sending out notices, on our website and through social media - because we wanted the entire process to be open and transparent," Rhodes said.

Plans call for the draft to include a number of alternatives for shaping the district's future and then asking for the public's response.

Rhodes said work on the draft is underway with the guidance of Dr. Barton Wechsler, dean of graduate programs at the University of Missouri's Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs. Wechsler was hired as a consultant on the planning project.

Among the issues likely to be included in the draft is what Rhodes described as the district's community outreach.

"People want more information on hazards and potential emergency situations and how to prepare for them," he said. "And maybe we need to do more to reach out to our schools and meet with subdivision and neighborhood groups. We used to do that and we may need to consider bringing that back."

David Cobb, board chairman, agreed with Rhodes.

"I think we're also at a point where we need to be very clear with those we serve about what levels of service we can provide and what the financial implications of that are," Cobb said. "So I think it comes down to our explaining that if you want the ultimate in service, here's what it will cost to provide that. If you just want to maintain the status quo, then this is what it will cost.

At one end or the other of that range, or somewhere in between, there's a point where our taxpayers will say 'this is what we want and can afford.' We need to do our best to make sure we get that input and respond accordingly."

However, John Hoffman, a blogger who lives in Town & Country, has criticized the planning program. Among other things, Hoffman accuses members of the district's command staff of lying about local nursing homes not having emergency generators and about West County not being competitive in its salaries for firefighter-paramedics

"I don't think we have to be concerned about what one person says in a blog," Rhodes said when asked for comment on Hoffman's remarks. "He (Hoffman) is entitled to his opinion, but we haven't lied about anything."

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October 20, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - The West County EMS and Fire Protection District has approved an agreement with Mercy Hospital to oversee its emergency medical service response efforts.

Under terms of the medical direction agreement with Mercy, West County will pay the hospital $2 for each of the approximately 3,000 calls for emergency medical service that it answers annually. The hospital provides oversight of actions by the district's paramedics when they respond to the calls.

Mercy personnel have provided oversight to West County in the past but the agreement marks the first time reimbursement provisions have been included in a formal agreement. District officials said other emergency medical service providers have similar arrangements with hospitals they use to provide oversight.

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Dr. Barton Wechsler from the University of Missouri leads discussion during a strategic planning session held Aug. 25 at the West County EMS and Fire Protection District training facility on Manchester Road.

September 2, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network

ST. LOUIS COUNTY - The West County EMS and Fire Protection District has kicked off a strategic planning effort by asking its citizens and its own employees what their expectations are for the district's future.

"Our focus is on continued improvement and the only way for that improvement to happen is if we know the expectations of those we serve," said David Cobb, West County's board chairman.

Leading the planning discussion was Dr. Barton Wechsler, dean of graduate programs at the University of Missouri's Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs. Emphasizing the need for planning, Wechsler quoted an adage attributed to New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra: "If you don't know where you're going, when you get there you'll be lost."

West County officials have entitled the planning program "Blueprint 2025: A Safer Community."

Wechsler asked the audience - divided about evenly between West County personnel and district residents - what their expectations for the district are and then had the group to come forward and check items from the list that they viewed as most important.

"We were honored by the large turnout and participation of so many community leaders from West County," said West EMS/FPD Chief Ernie Rhodes. "Blueprint 2025 is all about working together. Families all over the area will benefit."

Wechsler also was pleased with the initial meeting's results.

"I was very impressed with the thoughtful ideas and questions of the attendees," he said. "The vision and action plan that will come out of all this should be remarkable."

The planning effort is expected to take about six months.

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July 29, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network

WEST COUNTY - The West County EMS and Fire Protection District will seek proposals for providing the district human resources consulting services.

According to Chief Ernie Rhodes (photo left), the district's staff does not include a human resources specialist, but there is a need to have part-time expertise available to address issues and questions that arise periodically and ensure that HR matters are handled appropriately.

Authority to seek proposals for the consulting services was approved by the West County board at its July 21 meeting.

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July 11, 2014 - KSDK

BALLWIN, MO. - A west St. Louis County home was destroyed Friday by a two-alarm fire that started in the attic.

Firefighters were called to the home in the 400 block of Brass Lamp Drive around 1:30 p.m.

Harry Hamm, a spokesperson for the West County Fire Department, says the fire started somewhere in the attic, but the cause has not yet been determined.

Nobody was injured in the fire, but the home is a total loss.

Volunteers with the American Red Cross have offered assistance to the two adults and four children who lived inside the home.

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June 25, 2014 - Missouri Times

ST. LOUIS - IAFF 2665 and supporters are grieving the tragic death of Kevin Bacon, a 15-year veteran firefighter in West St. Louis County, who passed away on Saturday. Bacon was regarded as a "man's man and a firefighter's firefighter" by those that knew him.

Bacon, 39, made headlines within the last year when he received awards from the governor and the Greater St. Louis Fire Chiefs Association for a remarkable act of heroism for when he lifted a burning, overturned 3,000 lb car off of a trapped individual.

Those close to him, including Department of Labor Director Ryan McKenna (pictured above, left with Bacon to his immediate right), IAFF 2665 lobbyist Mark Habbas, St. Louis City fire captain and 1st Vice President of Firefighters Local 73 Kenny Mitchell, and IAFF 2665 2nd Vice President Mark Woolbright shared with The Missouri Times that he will be very missed.

"If you look up 'fireman' in the dictionary, it will have a picture of Kevin Bacon," Mitchell said. "Just like every kid thinks of when he thinks of a fireman. Heart as big as this world and goes to work every day just to help someone else, and wants no praise for any of it! Kevin is as strong as an ox, but as mild mannered as you will ever see."

"He was one of the best firefighters and best paramedics," Habbas said. "Everyone felt safe when he was on the scene. He had one of those presences where you always felt safe around him, no matter what. Smart, strong, and in every way a positive motivator. He just inspired you to be the very best. I always felt like I was unstoppable when he was around me."

His skill and strength were equally met by his compassion for his fellow firefighters.

Bacon started as a firefighter in St. Louis City and then went to West County. His involvement in the IAFF Local 2665 was driven by his desire to support other firefighters, said IAFF 2nd District Vice President Mark Woolbright.

"He was a big supporter of doing the right thing," Woolbright said. "He supported the individuals such as myself, Mark Habbas, and the union members. He was an advocate for doing what was right for our membership and their families. Worst case scenario, if anything were to happen to one of our members, he was a behind the scenes kind of guy who made sure we had what we needed to have."

St. Louisan supporters of the firefighter's union who work in Jefferson City have lent their support to those closest to him. Though Bacon was not political, he understood and appreciated the value of politics.

"Kevin was someone who served our community with distinction," state Senator Eric Schmitt, R-St. Louis County, said. "He shared his life helping others. He will be missed."

"I knew Kevin personally," Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, said. "He was a dedicated and courageous public servant. His tragic loss is devastating to his brothers and sisters in the police, fire and EMS fields. He will be missed."

"Kevin was a great guy and a hero to our state," Rep. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said.

"Unfortunately it's become common for some on the fringe to attempt to resurrect their careers by attacking heroes," Scott Faughn, The Missouri Times publisher, said. "Kevin led his life as a hero and his untimely death is a reminder to all of us to respect and honor our heroes while they are with us."

Friends painted a picture of a man who was not only compassionate, but determined to live life to its fullest.

"He never rode a bike until he wanted to do the Baja 1000 in Mexico," said Mark Habbas, IAFF 2665 lobbyist and close friend to Bacon. "He went out, bought the best and fastest bike and did the Baja. That just goes to show what kind of guy Kevin was."

"This man was Superman, honestly, in every aspect of the word," Woolbright said. "He didn't mind the challenge at all and he wasn't scared of a thing - not one thing I've ever known, including death. "

Bacon will be truly missed for his compassion and strength that he provided the St. Louis area firefighters. His death has truly rocked the firefighters of the St. Louis area, who have had an outpouring of sympathy towards West County.

"He was like my brother," Habbas said. "I just want people to know with his loss, a huge part of me was gutted."

"I love you brother, and miss you every day, till we meet again!" Mitchell said.

Private funeral arrangements have been made, but there will be an open service on Thursday, June 26 from 2-8pm at Kutis Funeral Home, 5255 Lemay Ferry, St. Louis, MO 63129.

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June 23, 2014

WEST COUNTY - Chairman of the Board of the West County EMS & Fire Protection District, Richard "Rick" Rognan, who just finished one year of his third six year term in April, resigned his position as fire board director in a letter to the Board dated June 9, 2014.

Mr. Rognan, who works as a local CPA with Rognan & Associates, cited an expanding business career as a reason for his resignation from the board. His firm provides accounting services for a number of fire protection districts and departments in St. Louis County.

(UPDATE - June 24, 2014)
Newsmagazine Network -

Richard "Rick" Rognan, chairman of the West County EMS and Fire Protection District Board of Directors, has resigned from that position.Citing the increasing press of responsibilities from his business, Rognan submitted the resignation in a letter officially accepted at the board's June 16 meeting. He did not attend the session and did not respond to a request for further comment.

Rognan was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the West County board in April of 2000. He then was elected to six-year terms in 2001, 2007 and 2013. He has served as board chairman since 2001.

During his tenure, voters in West County's fire district have approved two major bond issues - $12 million in 2001 and $19 million in 2009 - to finance equipment purchases and construction of new facilities.

What the remaining two members of the West County board, David Cobb and Robert Levine, will do about the director vacancy is uncertain. At the June 16 meeting, they said they will operate for the time being with just two members.

Current law permits a fire district board to appoint someone to fill a vacancy but also says the two directors making such an appointment must be elected. Cobb was appointed to his position late last summer to fill the position formerly held by Matt Miller who also resigned when he took a new job.

According to Charles Billings, West County's legal counsel, the other alternative for filling the position would be to ask the Circuit Court to make an appointment. The current directors could recommend someone for the position but the judge involved also would be required to consider other interested candidates.

In a reorganization election after Rognan's resignation was accepted, Cobb was elected board chairman and Levine agreed to serve as secretary and treasurer.

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June 21, 2014 - St. Louis Post Dispatch

ST. LOUIS - A West County firefighter, who had been honored for heroism, died after losing control of his motorcycle and crashing into a median on South Broadway early Saturday.

Kevin Bacon, 39, of Waterloo, was killed in the accident. Bacon was a 15-year firefighter who came to West County Fire & EMS from the St. Louis Fire Department, said West County Battalion Chief Robert Kartje.

"The whole organization is feeling his loss," Kartje said softly. "He was one of the best firefighters we had."

Police said Bacon was traveling at a high rate of speed when the motorcycle crashed in the 3200 block of South Broadway at 3:30 a.m.

The motorcycle struck a median at Broadway and Utah Street. Bacon was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

He was single and had no children.

Bacon was featured in a Post-Dispatch story last year in a special section on local heroes. In 2012, he saved the life of a driver who was trapped underneath an SUV.

Bacon, who was 6-foot-3 and weighed 230 pounds, was able to lift the 3,000-pound vehicle off the driver, Norman Scherrer of Valley Park. Bacon was awarded the Class II Silver Medallion from the Greater St. Louis Fire Chiefs Association for his effort. It's the group's second-highest award.

In the article last year, Bacon said knowing that Scherrer was walking, talking and back with his children was better than the award.

"That's what this job's all about," he said. "It's why we come to work."

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April 22, 2014 - West County EMS & Fire Protection District

WINCHESTER - According to the West County EMS & Fire Protection District web site, a one alarm fire caused heavy damage to a residence on Roland Avenue in Winchester. Firefighters from West County and Metro West extinguished the fire. Truck and home were fully involved in fire upon arrival. Occupants reported safe.

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Photo by West County Fire Protection District

March 1, 2014 - KMOX

ST. LOUIS COUNTY -No injuries were reported in a morning fire in West County.

West County Fire says the two-alarm blaze broke out around 5:30 a-m in the 13600 block of Sturbridge Road at Sturbridge Meadows Road. Three departments responded to the fire. Extensive damage is reported.

Clean-up crews are still at the scene. There's no word on the cause.

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February 14, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network

WEST COUNTY - Just as many viewers watch the Super Bowl in order to see the new, creative and/or edgy commercials aired that day, many in the St. Louis area are watching the Olympic Winter Games hoping to see people they know in spots being run during local breaks by Missouri Baptist Medical Center.

Missouri Baptist doctors, nurses and other personnel appear in three 30-second spots that will appear during telecasts of the Olympics. One of the commercials also features firefighter-paramedics from West County EMS and Fire Protection District.

West County's Joe Bauer and Ken Cranmer appear in a spot that emphasizes the speed of getting a heart attack victim to the Missouri Baptist's cardiac catheterization unit for treatment.

In real life, doctors know what to expect and prepare for when the patient arrives thanks to information relayed verbally by paramedics responding to a 911 call and via a data link that transmits EKG information from the ambulance to the hospital. The goal is to have the blocked blood vessel opened within the "Golden Hour," the time period after a heart attack occurs when treatment can be most successful, according to Beth Fagan, Missouri Baptist's director of communications.

Shot on a Sunday morning in late November when traffic was minimal, the commercial opens with footage of a West County ambulance en route to Missouri Baptist. Other scenes include the inside of the ambulance where the patient is being treated and information is being transmitted. The ambulance arrives at the hospital and Bauer and Cranmer whisk her to the catheterization unit where medical personnel take over.

Fagan credited Town & County Police with determining the best road to use for filming and monitoring the route to avoid unexpected problems.

"And those people from West County - what an asset they are to the community - the consummate professionals," Fagan said.

The other two spots focus on the center's new surgery unit and on the high-tech aspect of equipment and devices used by Missouri Baptist's medical personnel.

Employees had an early glimpse of the commercials during special showings at the center before the Olympics began. At their Feb. 3 meeting, members of the West County board viewed the spot in which Cranmer and Bauer appeared.

The Rodgers Townsend advertising agency of St. Louis developed the commercials.

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February 3, 2014 - Newsmagazine Network

WEST ST. LOUIS COUNTY - A 48-hour work schedule concept that started on the West Coast a number of years ago now has a firm foothold in the St. Louis area, including West County, and it looks like it's here to stay.

In California communities where real estate values and general living costs were once among the highest in the nation, firefighter-paramedics were among many who opted to live well away from their workplaces where homes and other expenses were more reasonable. Commutes of an hour or two were commonplace and still are, in spite of the burst in the home price bubble and falling property values.

Instead of working the 24-hour shift common in many areas for firefighter-paramedics, why not go to a 48-hour shift that would cut the overall hours spent commuting and give the first responders more days off in between their time at work? The number of on-duty hours would remain the same but would be more concentrated, thereby saving gas, car maintenance expenses and time spent behind the wheel and reducing pollution, it was reasoned.

The concept quickly caught on.

In 2009, West County Fire Protection District was the first in the West County area to adopt the plan.

Jeff Sadtler, West County's assistant chief, admits he wasn't overly enthused about the idea when employees first suggested it.

"But we did some research on it and about 95 percent of our people were in favor of giving it a six-month trial. After that, the vote was unanimous for keeping the new schedule," Sadtler said.

Under the West County plan, employees work 48 hours and then are off for 96, or four days. The 48/96 schedule replaced a 24-on, 24-off cycle covering five days, followed by four days off.

"It has been a positive experience for us," Sadtler said. "Our employees love it. The fatigue factor has not been an issue and we've noticed that our sick leave has diminished."

Vince Loyal, chief of the Metro West Fire Protection District, said employees approached the command staff there just over two years ago about the possibility of implementing the 48/96 plan.

"There was a large enough majority supporting it that we decided (in 2012) on a one-year trial," Loyal said. "We had another vote at the end of 2012 and the vote then was overwhelmingly in favor of continuing it."

Loyal concedes he also had misgivings.

"Employee fatigue was probably my biggest concern because that can lead to mistakes on the job, accidents and injuries," he said. "But while I was concerned about that, our officers have done a good job of monitoring the situation, and I'm happy to say my initial concerns have not proven to be a reality."

Brad Shelton, a captain at Metro West, said he lives close to the firehouse where he's stationed so commuting time and expense were not an issue for him.

"From my perspective, the real advantage has been that when we're on duty for 48 hours, it's easier to get all the projects and activities done that we need to get done," he said.

Included on that list are training, firehouse maintenance and routine truck equipment checks, organization and maintenance.

"All of our apparatus and other inspection checks and training are held daily," Loyal said.

The Monarch Fire Protection District is one of the largest in the area that has not adopted the 48/96 schedule. Robin Harris, president of the district board, said he has not researched the issue but said the arguments for the 48-hour shift he has heard so far do not make him a believer.

"There seems to be no benefit to the residents of a district," he said. "It appears the only reason to move to a 48-hour shift is a convenience issue for the firefighters. While I don't have any issue with providing a change to working conditions to make employees happier, this is one that causes concern."

Harris said that even in areas where emergency call volume is lower, "There can be an area-wide event such as a thunderstorm, tornado, ice and snow that could require on-duty personnel to work nearly non-stop. While that may not be typical, we would not want to put peopleâ's lives at risk, even occasionally, for the convenience of the fire district."

In St. Louis County, most of the fire protection districts are on the 48/96 schedule now or are experimenting with it.

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January 3, 2014 - KTVI

MANCHESTER - Emergency and fire crews are keeping an eye on the forecast. For firefighters, the temperature drop makes a difficult job even harder.

Buildings looking more like ice castles and uniforms covered in ice are just some of the ways frigid temperatures impact the life-saving work that firefighters set out to do.

West County Fire Department Deputy Chief Tim Dorsey explains, "The trucks are built to withstand cold temperatures, it's just when we compound that with water, water spills all over the place and becomes hazardous for us."

When temperatures dip below freezing, especially in the teens and single digits, FOX 2 Chief Meteorologist Dave Murray says firefighting can be even tougher than in extreme heat: "It's a matter of minutes before you start to get that ice look on buildings, even in a fire situation."

Ice-covered buildings can quickly crumble. Dorsey explains, "In cold temperatures, the water weight would accumulate and possibly cause that collapse or failure in the structure."

The frigid temperatures are also tough for firefighters themselves, who can be outside anywhere from 15 minutes to six hours.

Murray says, "Think about working on a skating rink, with all their heavy equipment, the oxygen tanks, the whole thing. It's a very dangerous situation to be in."

Unfortunately, firefighters could find themselves in these bitter cold situations more often in the near future, especially on Monday, when temperatures are expected to dip below zero.

Despite the danger, firefighters know that it's worth it to save people's homes, businesses, and lives. Dorsey explains, "Whether it's 10 below zero or 110 degrees outside, these are just the environments and physical situations that firefighters are put into, and it's just part of the job that we do."

Other dangers for firefighters, and anyone out in these temperatures, include frostbite and hypothermia. To prevent these issues, efforts are made to rotate firefighters more often, and provide places for them to warm up.

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December 16, 2013 - KTVI

WEST ST. LOUIS COUNTY - First responders started their work week by jumping in a freezing pond in Ballwin's Queeny Park. It was all for ice-water rescue training.

In early December 2013, a 6-year-old Oklahoma boy died in an icy pond. Investigators say the water was not very deep. But, the boy may have been trapped under a block of ice and drowned.

According to the National Weather Service, almost 100 people die in flood-related accidents in the U.S. each year. This is more than those who dies from tornadoes and lightning.

Firefighters from the West County EMS and Fire Protection District gathered to sharpen their ice-water training skills.

Maryland Heights Firefighters warned people to stay off of icy bodies of water. The pond or lake may look frozen over. But, that ice may be thin. Firefighters also urged parents should be on alert. Kids tend to chase after their pets, even if they fall in icy water.

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Fire District Seeks Replacement for Directors Position

August 23, 2013 - West County EMS and Fire District

The West County EMS and Fire Protection District of St. Louis County, Missouri (residential population 51,000/daytime population 105,000) seeks applicants for the unexpired term of Matthew Miller (photo) on the Board of Directors.

The District provides EMS, fire, and safety services for some of the most desirable suburban communities in St. Louis County. The following areas are supported by their geographical boundaries or by contractual agreements: Ballwin, Des Peres, Manchester, Town & Country, Twin Oaks, Valley Park, Winchester, unincorporated St. Louis County, Corporate Hill Office Center, and Manchester/270 Office Center.

West County provides services from three fire stations, including an administrative headquarters/fire station, safety house, and a training center. Outstanding homes and a positive work environment, along with superior educational and recreational systems, contribute to these communities' high quality-of-life.

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West County EMS/FPD Celebrates Milestones

May 06, 2013 - News Magazine

WEST COUNTY - The April 29 board meeting of the West County EMS and Fire Protection District was a milestone for three persons associated with the operation.

Richard Rognan, Board chairman, took the oath of office as he began his third term on the three-person body that oversees the district's activities.

Rognan was unopposed in seeking the six-year term. Because election rules permit opting out of the voting process when there is only one candidate for a position, the West County director post was not on last month's ballot and Rognan was declared the winner.

An official swearing in still was required and Ernie Rhodes, the district's chief, administered the oath of office as the meeting began.

Later, as family members and co-workers looked on, two West County veterans were promoted to captain. Eric Heimos, of Labadie, and Kevin Klump, of Ballwin, joined the district's officer ranks based on their performance on a written examination and other qualification requirements.

Heimos has 15 years of service and Klump joined the district nine years ago.

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West County Fire Has Big Plans for New Training, Education Facility

March 11, 2013 - TownAndCountry-Manchester Patch

MANCHESTER - The organization is expected to announce a major partnership with a local health care system to expand the mission of Safety House and the Advanced Center of Excellence.

The West County EMS and Fire Protection District is expected to soon announce a major partnership that will broaden the mission of a $5 million training and education facility that opened last year.

Safety House and the Advanced Center of Excellence (ACE), located behind the fire house at 13970 Manchester, together contain mock environments that can simulate a range of incidents, a 60-seat auditorium and classroom space. According to Development Specialist Harry Hamm, there are only a few other facilities like it in all of the U.S.

"The real story now that it's open is how it is evolving and what some of the potentialities are for the future," he said.

To find that future, Hamm said the next step is to form "meaningful partnerships" with organizations in the area that are interested in the same quality-of-life improvement goals as the fire district, such as the health care industry, the corporate sector and community service groups.

"Many of our partners' priorities will become ours because we are in the same business, ensuring the health and safety of children and the protection of homes and adult family members," Hamm said.

This could mean expanding the standard safety courses offered so that they appeal to an audience beyond students, such as senior citizens, and finding innovative new ways to teach them.

"We want to cover all the age demographics eventually," Hamm said.

It could also mean enhanced training for the area's first responders by having a facility where hospital staff, for example, and firefighters can exchange techniques and expertise. Given that 70 percent of all the district's calls are sick calls, Hamm said, this could be especially critical.

"That kind of sharing info, training and knowledge will be what we will be after in concert with safety house," he said.

While the facility was funded in part by a $19 million bond issue, Hamm said finding a way to develop enough support to take care of the district's operating expenses while allowing it to expand the mission of Safety House and ACE is part of the challenge.

To this end, Hamm said the district will be forming a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation called Friends of Safety House to help enlist the community's support. He said the district is still "firming up" its budgets to see exactly what will be required financially to fulfill the vision they have for the facility's future.

"They built a Cadillac and we need to put fuel in it," said Hamm, who started with the district only a month ago. "What it's going to become is going to surprising a lot of people in a positive way."

More on TownAndCountry-Manchester Patch story

New Fire Marshal named in West County

February 25, 2013 - NewsMagazine Network

WEST COUNTY - West County EMS and Fire Protection District has named Dan Bruno as its new fire marshal. The district's Board of Directors approved the hiring at its Feb. 18 meeting on the recommendation of Fire Chief Ernie Rhodes.

Noting Bruno's training and background as a professional engineer, Rhodes termed the hiring "a new approach" for the fire marshal position.

Bruno comes to the West County post after almost seven years as a project manager for Delcan