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Pettibone Road emergency responses questioned
Pettibone Road emergency responses questioned
By SUE REID
Solon Councilwoman Susan A. Drucker stressed the need to move ahead with a video-conferencing system for firefighter training at last week's safety and public properties committee meeting.
Her comments related to concerns she has had over Fire Station No. 3 being occupied at all times during the Pettibone Road reconstruction project. She said that firefighters training at Fire Station No. 2 at SOM Center (Route 91) and Bainbridge roads and having to respond to a call on Pettibone Road adversely would affect response times. Firefighters from Station No. 3 respond to any call in the southern tier of the city along Pettibone Road, heading east, west and south to the city limits.
"I'm concerned that we have Fire Station 3 occupied at all times," she said. "The response time will definitely be slower."
Mrs. Drucker said she has had that concern throughout the Pettibone Road reconstruction, but even more so with recent discussion of accelerating the project to make up for lost days and extending one-way traffic eastbound on the road by City Council's public works committee.
Fire Chief William J. Shaw said last week, "Certainly, construction does slow us down, because the road is not as smooth." However, he said, when a call is dispatched, it is simulcast to both the police and fire departments, and the police are there to get the traffic moving.
"Those officers on the road would know if a firetruck or ambulance is coming in their direction," he said.
Mr. Shaw said he has not seen any issue with regard to response time from Station 3 since the Pettibone Road project began last November.
"Can't we have that station manned 24/7?" Councilman and committee member Edward K. Suit asked Mr. Shaw.
It is manned 24/7, Mr. Shaw said. "We are there well over 90 percent of the time." That can be improved with the video-conferencing system, he said. However, a video-conferencing-training system will not mean that firefighters will never be at Station 2 training, he said.
Some training classes are hands-on, he said, including the training of paramedics in practical skills, such as pediatric-advance-life support. This type of training has to be witnessed by an instructor, he said. Those instructors are provided free of charge from both Hillcrest and South Pointe hospitals, he said. They come to the city for three days to cover all three shifts.
"The video system is going to help us because not all of our training is practical, hands-on skills based," Mr. Shaw said. However, "we are a hands-on kind of business and we have to have hands-on training."
The hope is to have the video-conferencing system in place by this year, Mr. Shaw said. He will be before the finance committee later this month where the department will present the recommended equipment and ask for their authority to go out for bids. Discussed during the budget hearings earlier this year, the video-conferencing system will help the department be able to bring in multiple locations for teleconferencing for training purposes.
"We need something in place," Mrs. Drucker said. "You have to admit response time will be longer."
"We can come up with an alternative response to address that concern," Mr. Shaw said. The fire department will have a plan and present it at council's next meeting July 20, he said.
Mr. Shaw said last week that he had addressed the issues of Station 3 being occupied at a council meeting back in March. Following that meeting, Mr. Shaw said, he directed his staff to start tracking when firefighters leave the station, why and when they come back.
According to statistics the department compiled, on average, Station 3 was unoccupied eight hours per week over an eight-week period, from March until May. That is one hour and 15 minutes per day of a 24-hour shift. Those are averages, Mr. Shaw said. There were 11 days out of that eight-week period where the station was occupied at all times, with the exception of emergency calls.
Mr. Shaw said if people see units outside of the station they assume the entire station is empty. "More frequently, we have one of the units out on some type of mission, and the other unit is still in the station," he said.
Mr. Shaw said there are reasons that the firefighters need to leave the station, such as to get gas and replenish the ambulance supplies, such as filling oxygen bottles, and inspections. They also do public education and blood-pressure checks for other city departments.
"I don't agree with empty fire stations with the exception of being on emergency calls," Mrs. Drucker said. "I think all of the fire stations should be manned at all time." Mrs. Drucker said that if they are at Station 2 training, "then why have Station 3?
"It was built to have quicker response time to the southern part of the city," Mrs. Drucker said.
Mr. Shaw said firefighters with his department are very cognizant of the fact that their job is to deliver emergency response to the community. As such, they plan their non-emergency training accordingly.
Station 3 at 7401 SOM Center Road is the smallest of the city's three fire stations. Four people are assigned to that station, which is the department's standard staffing, Mr. Shaw said. Only Station 2 is staffed with five people, which includes the battalion chief.
Station 3 responds on average to nearly 600 calls a year. That does not include the calls that originate at Station 2 and they assist.
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