By Jeff Davidson — Broadband Ambassador of United Communications
Volunteer and rural fire departments play a crucial role in providing fire safety in Tennessee. In fact, more than 75% of our state’s fire departments are staffed entirely by volunteers. If you live outside of city limits and there is a fire, there is a good chance that the first responders will be from a volunteer fire department. As a local internet service provider that’s committed to helping suburban and rural communities thrive, United has a long-standing appreciation for the men and women who volunteer to serve. This appreciation has expanded over the years into a partnership with numerous volunteer fire departments. As part of that partnership, we provide free broadband internet to fire stations across our service area.
This past January 19th, we had the privilege to complete a broadband installation for the Williamson County Station 23 VFD in Thompson Station as part of our Project UNITE initiative. Project UNITE is more than just about providing high-speed internet access to the residents in our community, but also bringing fiber internet to the critical organizations that serve those communities.
From maintaining the requisite number of volunteer members to the high standard of training it takes to be a firefighter, rural fire departments have faced numerous difficulties in recent years. At United, we do our part to support them in the way we know best — by offering high-speed internet and telecommunication services. Here are three unique ways that fiber-based broadband helps support the essential work of volunteer fire departments:
Recruiting new volunteers has become an increasingly difficult challenge for volunteer fire departments across Tennessee. As the demographics of the rural areas change, fewer and fewer men and women are available to serve as volunteer firefighters.
Offering broadband access in the station allows volunteer fire departments to stay connected to their communities and increases their ability to recruit volunteers. Having access to the internet makes the fire station a more enjoyable place for volunteers and provides entertainment for firefighters during the long hours they wait while waiting to respond to fires or potential rescue situations.
In addition to supporting recruitment efforts, high-speed internet also makes it possible for volunteers to access online training materials. This enables them to keep up with the necessary training and certifications that are required. Through broadband, volunteers can maintain their qualifications in firefighting, equipment operation, and extrication, as well as other essential emergency rescue skills.
High-speed internet also makes a tangible impact on the wallets of residents across the community. ISO stands for Insurance Services Office, an independent, for-profit organization. The ISO evaluates volunteer fire departments to determine property insurance costs. An ISO rating ranges from 1-10. The lower the number, the better the rating.
When volunteer fire departments are staffed, maintained, and well-equipped, they can earn a lower ISO rating. For town residents, the cost savings of this rating is significant. Residents that are serviced by departments with a low ISO rating pay lower premiums on their monthly homeowner’s insurance.
Supporting local volunteer fire departments is just one of my favorite ways we partner with local governments across Middle Tennessee. Our internet installation at Williamson County VFD 23 in Thompson Station marked our 12th installation for a volunteer fire department.
Chief Bronson, Fire and Rescue Coordinator for Williamson County, shared, “Williamson Co. Fire Station 23 is an all-volunteer organization, but the needs for research, training, and report writing continue to be of great need. Several of our members actually work remotely, so they are able to do their career job from the station while volunteering for emergency situations. Having a great internet connection will make this more possible for our members!”
As we expand broadband connectivity in rural and underserved areas of Middle Tennessee, we will continue to provide free internet access to the brave volunteer firefighters who make our state great. For more information about our partnership with the local volunteer fire departments, please visit Project UNITE.
Broadband Ambassador of United Communications
After nearly four decades of public service, including thirty years and three combat tours in the U.S. Army, Jeff now serves his community at United Communications. As Broadband Ambassador, he carries out United’s mission to provide high-speed internet to every under-connected home or business in Middle Tennessee. Jeff began advocating for broadband access while serving as the former deputy mayor of Rutherford County for nine years. He has witnessed firsthand the detrimental effects of broadband disparity amongst rural communities. In 2018, he and others successfully convinced state lawmakers to lift burdensome regulations preventing internet expansion in rural communities. Jeff now resides in Eagleville, TN.