April 23, 2014

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Lorain fire chief investigates memo leak

LORAIN — City Fire Chief Tom Brown is conducting an administrative investigation into how a rough draft of a memo he was preparing on the first phase of the transition to having fire calls dispatched from the Lorain County 911 Call Center began circulating around the city’s fire stations earlier this month.

“There were copies made of personnel documents that should not have been made,” Brown said Tuesday.

No one has been disciplined in connection with the investigation, which Brown largely declined to discuss.

“It would be premature for me to comment on the investigation,” he said.

Jon George, president of the firefighters union, said he was aware the investigation was ongoing, but wasn’t privy to the details. He also said firefighters questioned in the case were made aware of their rights prior to being interviewed.

Brown did acknowledge that he has consulted with the Lorain Police Department to make sure he was taking the right steps during his probe, but he said police aren’t part of the investigation.

The completed version of the memo details how the Fire Department plans to implement the use of mobile data terminals, also known as MDTs, into the city’s fire trucks. It also discusses the role 911 will play in the first phase of the transition.

The memo goes on to explain that “Phase 1 of the transition will keep the board man (who handles dispatching calls for service) in place to receive calls, dispatch units, communicate with 911, and monitor the MDT activity,” the memo said. “Board man duties will largely remain the same.”

The county already has taken over dispatching duties for the Lorain County Sheriff’s Office and several other county fire departments.

Brown said he had planned to meet with the Fire Department’s officers and later with firefighters to discuss the changes, which are a precursor to 911 eventually taking over fire dispatching. The draft version of the memo was released before those meetings took place, he said.

Brown declined to release the draft memo that was circulated around the Fire Department, but he said it was inappropriate that the document was accessed and distributed.

He said that it comes in a climate where some fear the coming changes, although there are no plans to lay off firefighters, who currently handle dispatching duties. Brown added that the change will free up more firefighters to ride on trucks and respond to emergencies.

Brown said the fact that Lorain fire has been looking at shifting dispatching duties to the county hasn’t been a secret. He said he would personally like to keep dispatching through the Fire Department, but that’s no longer feasible.

Such changes are widely viewed as a cost-saving measure for the municipalities that make the shift to 911-run fire dispatch.

George said that firefighters believe having one of their own handle dispatch makes more sense because a firefighter has a better feel for what’s happening at a scene and what resources might be needed.

“We would prefer to keep that service in-house,” he said.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

  • GreatRedeemer

    “We would prefer to keep that service in-house,” Ill bet. Though the cost savings would not be achieved.

    • Pete

      You are still paying for it. Now if you live outside Lorain we will all be paying now instead of just Lorain residences. I would rather have qualified people dispatching instead of the yahoos at 911.