Census helps county fire departments be prepared

Published 4:13 pm Friday, March 5, 2010

Ten minutes isn’t a long time, but taking those few minutes to fill out your census form might help extend your life in an emergency. Fire departments and emergency medical services across the county need to know statistics such as population and other demographics to better serve their communities and respond quickly to a crisis.

The information from the 2010 census will help places such as the Cahaba Valley Fire Department prepare for the changes in population that have occurred over the past decade.

“The census will help us plan for emergency service delivery based on the demographics of the community we serve,” said Jim Witherington, the CVFD fire chief.

The updated information on the ages and locations of Shelby County residents will help fire departments prepare for the kinds of medical emergency calls that often come from the elderly.

“We typically provide more care to those who are older than younger,” Witherington said.

The chief said that knowing the current number of people living in the area is important for several reasons.

Some federal grants for fire departments are based on population. It’s also important to know how many people are in the community in order to project how the department should grow in upcoming years, he said.

“We can look at the last census and compare it to this one to see how the population has grown in our area. The more people we serve, the more our emergency services will increase,” Witherington said.

Last year, the Cahaba Valley Fire Department responded to 887 EMS medical calls, nearly half of their total 1,747 calls.

Currently the CVFD provides their firefighting and emergency medical services to 17,000 people, according to their Web site, Cahabavalleyfire.org.

Census forms will be arriving in the mail this month. Filling them out will provide accurate numbers for the 29 fire departments across the county.