The Blue Ridge Fire & EMS Academy (BRFEA) was selected as one of 29 local government programs in Virginia to receive a 2022 Achievement Award from the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo).
VACo received 100 submissions from across the state and winning entries focused on addressing issues of the pandemic, connecting citizens, and other challenges faced by counties.
The BRFEA was formed in 2021 through a partnership between the Henry County Department of Public Safety and the Franklin County Department of Public Safety. It was created to address the dwindling number of trained emergency response personnel in each locality.
“It is an honor to have been selected by VACo for this outstanding achievement in regional cooperation,” said Matt Tatum, director of Henry County Public Safety. “While the academy may have begun out of the necessity to fill critical positions, it has quickly developed into a model for multijurisdictional collaboration to produce quality training for first responders in rural localities.”
The partnership calls for each agency to cover any specific cost related to their recruits and the instruction staffing is shared proportionately between the jurisdictions participating. The model also allows partner jurisdictions to join in the future to fill personnel shortages. Patrick County chose to participate in the second academy which began May 2.
“The fact that the program is growing in its second year is a testament to the dedicated leadership of each of the participating departments and it really speaks to the benefits of strong partnerships,” said Henry County Deputy County Administrator J.R. Powell. “Undoubtedly, the first academy class had its hurdles to overcome by coordinating in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that adversity made the academy staff and recruits resilient as a team and benefited the communities at large.”
One benefit of the program is the division of instructional responsibilities amongst departments with existing robust training regiments. During the first academy, Franklin County took the lead on firefighter training while Henry County was in charge of the emergency medical services training portion.
The VACo Achievement Awards is a competitive program open to local government members of the association. For a complete list of the winners, visit: www.vaco.org/county-profiles/achievementawards/2022-achievement-awards-entries/.