Frequently Asked Questions

Example: Questions in BOLD.

Example: Corresponding answers are shaded just below to question.

How do I rent Barron Hall for an Event?

Please Visit the Barron Hall Rental Page.

Why does it take so long for you to get here?

The national recommendation by the NFPA is under 8 minutes from dispatch to the scene. The Shepherdstown Fire Department, even with our rural response area, is proud to maintain a 7 minute, and :48 seconds average response time – at or just below the recommended standard. Still, you may ask, why does it take about 8 minutes, or feel longer? In part, your nervous and need help. This will make time slow down. Additionally, once you call 9-1-1 you’ll be on the phone for 2-4 minutes answering questions. The dispatch center then alerts Company 3, and depending on the call type, our volunteers will respond immediately (if they are at the firehouse), or will get dressed and drive to the firehouse. We have 5 minutes to respond before the next apparatus is alerted. You then must take into account the drive time between our firehouse and your address – 8 minutes passes pretty quickly in this scenario, and depending on drive time, may be longer.

I have questions about an Ambulance Bill, who do I contact?

Please call our billing contractor Medical Claims Assistance at 1-800-676-4785. If they do not satisfactorily address your concern, please utilize the Contact Us page to reach out to our EMS Chief.

I called 9-1-1 for an ambulance, and then the ambulance showed up without any lights on, why?

Driving with lights and sirens is extremely dangerous for the emergency responder, and the general public. For this reason, the Jefferson County Communications Center (the people who answer your 911 call) are using a nationally accepted dispatch standard referred to as Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD), and from that process response guidelines called Priority Dispatching are generated.  Priority dispatching and EMD provides the ambulance with a response guide dependent upon the nature and severity of your emergency – this response includes 3 methods: 1) no lights and no sirens, 2) lights and sirens, or 3) first unit lights and sirens, all other units no lights and sirens to you.

I called 9-1-1, and multiple ambulances, and/or even a firetruck showed up, why?

Predetermined apparatus and resources have been carefully considered by the Shepherdstown Fire Department leadership. Many variables and  considerations are examined to ensure that any additional personnel that may be needed are already on the way, to alleviate having to wait on scene for more resources.

What area is considered the Shepherdstown Fire Departments run area?


What is the difference between an EMT and Paramedic?

The difference between an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and a Paramedic comes down to 2 main things: 1) State issued protocols allow for different treatment, and 2) amount of formal education.  A Paramedic goes through more education and training and can therefore provide a higher level of emergency care. This means their protocols allow for more invasive procedures (IV, Intubations, etc.).  An EMT in West Virginia can do a great deal of emergency care including advanced airways, pharmaceutical administration, 12-Lead EKG, and basic diagnosis of illness.

What does the County Ambulance Fee do for the SFD and how can this help me?

While we receive $0.00 from the ambulance fee and our apparatus is primarily staffed with volunteer Firefighters, volunteer EMT’s and volunteer Drivers; in concert with the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency (JCESA) we do have 1 Firefighter/Paramedic and 1 Firefighter/EMT staffing our apparatus every day for a full 24 hours, provided through county ambulance fee funds. The JCESA staffing is imperative in our ability to properly care for and support our community – without the JCESA, and the Ambulance Fee, our job is much more difficult. It’s truly a partnership! Learn more about the fee here.

Why does the ambulance sit in front of my house after they get the patient into the back of the ambulance?

In many ways, an ambulance is like a mobile emergency room. The ambulance carries the same/similar equipment as the emergency room has – and even does the same procedures as the emergency room in many cases. Sometimes a patient needs some medication or a special procedure prior to going to the hospital, and many times it’s easiest to do this while not moving. Some medical conditions need to be addressed rapidly to ensure a positive outcome for the patient.

When I call for an ambulance, why do I sometimes see an ambulance from another town?

During the course of a day it is not unusual for two, three or four calls for the ambulance to come in at the same time. If one or both of our ambulances are busy we will request an ambulance from the next available town – normally Sharpsburg, MD., but sometimes Charles Town/Ranson. This is called Mutual Aid.  The Mutual Aid system works both ways, therefore Shepherdstown is commonly dispatched to the other municipalities.   No matter who arrives for you, you can rest assured they are well trained, and ready to assist you in any way – they may not be as good as the SFD, but they will be close! 🙂

Why do so many fire trucks go on a call?      

The number of trucks responding is based on the type of call received. As previously discussed under “I called 9-1-1, and multiple ambulances, and/or even a firetruck showed up, why?” in most cases it’s due to predetermined response criteria. On a medical call, an engine and second ambulance will respond to the scene on many calls.  The standard response for any fire alarms, odors of gas or smoke, and other unknown issues is 2 pieces of apparatus (namely an Engine and a Truck).  For a reported “house fire,” the standard response is 4 engines, 2 trucks, 2 ambulance, and tankers, as needed. If we need additional help after we arrive at a scene we use the mutual aid system and call other resources, as needed.

Why do some fire trucks or ambulances park down the street from a fire?

You may see fire apparatus parked down the street from an incident for two primary reasons: 1) In situations when an EMS scene is deemed unsafe due to a potentially violent patient or family member, or there are dangerous drugs involved, apparatus may “stage” until the police department has secured (made safe) the scene. Or, 2) On fire calls, an engine may stage down at the closest fire hydrant or intersection in case additional water is need at the scene for a building fire.

Why would emergency equipment be running with lights and siren, then just turn them off?

On occasion, the fire engine and ambulance will be driving with lights and sirens and then suddenly turn them off– we know this could cause confusion. Be assured that when this happens it means we have received information that the caller or incident is no longer a dire emergency.  It is what we call “being cancelled”.  Any or all of the apparatus may continue to drive to the call or perhaps some will return to the Fire Station. We assure you, no one is “joy-riding” with lights and sirens, or using them to evade traffic lights.

Why do I see a fire truck parked at the grocery store or restaurant?

Our volunteer live-in’s live at the firehouse and JCESA staffing works 24 hour shifts, which means that they eat, sleep, and work at the fire station for 24 hours at a time. Our volunteers and JCESA occasionally need to go to the store to purchase food to prepare meals for the day, or grab a bite at a local restaurant, but they are still on duty and ready to respond. They do not have the freedom to go anywhere they want for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They are in service, and must remain in service, and be prepared to respond immediately, even from the grocery store or restaurant, if they get a call. You’ll notice that they are carrying emergency radios. Sometimes they get a call and have to leave their items as they quickly respond to the emergency.

How hot does a house fire get?

The temperature of a house fire depends on the materials that are burning. Now more than ever, our society’s modern conveniences are made of synthetics instead of Mother Nature’s raw materials. When plastics or other petroleum based products burn, temperatures can reach as high as 1,200°F.

What is the difference between fire engines and fire trucks?

“Fire engines” are those vehicles of the fire department that pump water, carry lots of hose, and hand tools. The term “truck” is reserved for fire apparatus that has a large ladder on top and ground ladders. Fire Engines and Fire Trucks perform significantly different functions at a fire scene.

Why do firefighters break out window and cut holes in roof during a fire?

Firefighters ventilate smoke and superheated gases for safety and visibility. This lets firefighters get inside the building to find and extinguish the fire, thereby reducing property damage. This also reduces the safety risk to firefighters.

Why do you block traffic lanes at auto accidents — more lanes than are necessary?

It’s for the safety of our personnel and our patients. Blocking extra lanes (normally, lane +1) helps to keep our personnel safe when they go back to our apparatus to get more equipment, and it helps protect the victim we’re trying to stabilize, or other emergency personnel on scene. The best thing you can do is SLOW DOWN, and MOVE OVER.

Why does my water turn brown when firefighters turn fire hydrants on?

We inspect fire hydrants for proper operation, use them for training, and, of course, use them for firefighting. We turn the fire hydrants on to make sure they operate properly. We turn the hydrants on slowly so as not to stir up the sediment that is in the pipes, but at times the sediment does get stirred up and the water coming out of your faucet can be brown in color as a result of sediment in the pipes.

How do you become a firefighter or EMT with the Shepherdstown Fire Department?

Check out the Join Us page, and hopefully your questions are answered.

Back to Top