OCEAN CITY – Despite the ongoing ripples of controversy that have recently made headlines, the Ocean City Fire Department (OCFD) continues to exceed national expectations, according to its chief.

This week Fire Chief Chris Larmore presented to the Mayor and City Council and public the quarterly Fire/EMS report starting with the department holding onto an exceptional response time.

For the past four years, the department has done extensive research and monitoring of response times and has maintained an average of four minutes and 30 seconds. According to Larmore, the American Heart Association recommends a sub eight-minute response time.

For the OCFD, the average in 2012 was four minutes and 33 seconds while receiving about 6,000 calls for service. Compared to 2011, the past year showed an increase in calls for service. The call volume of the OCFD is closely monitored to best enable the department to schedule and distribute personnel and equipment for anticipated needs.

Crew status is also closely monitored within the department while constantly being challenged by the economy. The department has been able to maintain its current practice of having at least one crew available for a call for service at all times. When the department is out of crews, it is handled by splitting crews, supervisors or volunteers.

“I am very pleased to announce at no time in 2012 did the OCFD stack the call,” Larmore said. “What I mean by the term ‘stack the call’ is when a call is dispatched a unit was dispatched to that call. Again, that is a remarkable achievement when you think about all of those 6,000 calls … by and large, there was always a resource sent to every single call in 2012 when a call came in.”

The OCFD is requesting 12 new full-time employees in its upcoming budget. Larmore explained the last new hires were acquired about seven years ago, with the subsequent retirement/resignation of seven persons three years ago. A complete study was performed that identified a shortage of an additional six full-time providers prior to the reduction. This continues to be based on the large number of part‐time workers exceeding standard full‐time hours, among a list of other challenges.

“As we have over the history of the fire department, we are up to the challenge, we are going to make it, and I assure you we are going to provide the service this season,” he said

Larmore furthered, the OCFD recognizes the continued necessity to review all aspects of the department’s delivery service and is preparing an analysis of customer service.

As part of that analysis, the department has an internal “chart review” process, where patient reports are reviewed for protocol compliance and actions. This will be expanded in 2013.

The OCFD is also developing a process not only for internal review but of the final delivery of service, including a survey form sent to each patient or contact and random follow-up phone calls.

“I can count on one hand the number of complaints we have received in 2012. That was far outweighed by the positive notes and compliments and reviews we have received … anything that we can do to receive feedback on the type of service we provide, not only on response time and equipment, but more importantly customer satisfaction,” Larmore said.

In other department news, the process leading up to the reconstruction of Fire Station 4 is ongoing as the final plan is being modified and the project will go out to bid in the near future. Larmore does not expect the project to begin until after the summer but assured the relocation of personnel and equipment when that time comes will be announced.

The Ocean City Volunteer Fire Company, one of the three divisions within the OCFD, is expected to grow larger this year as the trend in the past five years reflects a constant increase. Currently, the total membership stands at 291.

“Their membership is holding its own, if anything it is improving modestly and when you look at a nationwide trend it is quite remarkable,” Larmore said.

The Fire Marshal’s Office, another OCFD division, continues monitoring the high-rise initiative that began eight years ago in getting Ocean City’s buildings up to par for fire safety. Larmore added the Fire Marshal’s Office is in charge of training for the entire department and the OCFD has received high marks on an ISO (Insurance Services Office) report regarding department training.

Next, Larmore announced recently the OCFD was approved for a $400,000 grant to replace Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), which is the air tanks personnel wear in hazardous conditions.

“Needless to say it is very competitive in today’s economic environment to try to get grants,” Larmore said. “It is not like it was five to 10 years ago and for Ocean City to be successful to receive a $400,000 grant is quite remarkable … we would have had to actually had to fund this over the next 200 years.”

In late September a massive fire broke out on 37th Street in the Bradley in the Bay complex, resulting in the demolition of a three-story apartment building. Larmore has assigned personnel to complete a detailed review and critique of the incident to not only determine what caused the fire but how it spread so quickly so that other buildings that have similar construction are assigned with a pre-plan.

“One of our concerns is for an incident to occur at 6 o’clock at night with that many people around and there was quite a flame spread that we were not accustomed to have a building being fully involved in that short of time,” he said. “So we do have concerns, had that happenned in the summer time we really need to be on our game to protect our citizens and our visitors.”

Larmore’s final item was to announce the completion of the new fire boat that is currently undergoing sea trials. Personnel began training four years ago to operate this piece of equipment.

“I have to say when the committee reviewed the boat in the first part of January, a committee of about 13-14 people were literally speechless. It is that much of piece of art,” he said. “They have done an incredible job for Ocean City … it will be an awesome piece of equipment for us.”

Larmore concluded by assuring the Mayor and City Council and public the OCFD service will not hinder in the upcoming year.

“I know that we provided exceptional service in 2012. I would like to assure the Mayor and City Council you have my word and commitment and I believe every member of the department that although we are human and not so much perfect we strive to be the best we can and we will make every effort not only meet but exceed your expectation for 2013,” he said.