August 28, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria Fire Department to limit responses

Elyria Fire Department responds to Commodore Arms Apartments after the roof was struck by lightning in 2012. Starting next month, the fire department's deployment will be more targeted and efficient. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Elyria Fire Department responds to Commodore Arms Apartments after the roof was struck by lightning in 2012. Starting next month, the fire department’s deployment will be more targeted and efficient. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — The Fire Department will begin pulling back from the number of calls and the types of fire trucks it sends to certain emergencies starting Feb. 1, Assistant Safety Service Director Bruce Shade said.

The move will save the city thousands of dollars without affecting staffing levels. But it will be a drastic change from how things have been done when most emergency calls trigger a fleet of vehicles responding to a scene.

Shade said deployment of fire resources beginning next month will be more targeted and efficient.

“We’re looking at good common-sense practices,” he said. “We will not cut out the help that people need, but we are definitely going on a number of unnecessary calls and that has to change.”

A new system being worked out with LifeCare Ambulance Inc. and Lorain County 911 will include quickly assessing what is needed through garnering information from 911 callers and sending firefighters and trucks as needed. Shade said emergency dispatchers will have a very specific list of medical emergencies to use as a guide as to when to call the Fire Department.

Basic automatic fire alarm calls or minor motor vehicle accidents will no longer result in a response of several fire apparatus. The same goes for medical calls that are not life-threatening.

The move does not mean the city will completely pull back from being first responders in life-threatening situations. Fire trucks and firefighters still will respond to major accidents where victims need to be cut out of mangled vehicles — although those calls are few. Firefighters with paramedic training also will respond to medical calls where seconds count.

Shade said such a system could see Elyria’s call volume drop by approximately 800 calls per year with a savings — taking into account wear and tear on vehicles, supplies and equipment — of roughly $112,000 a year.

“This is not unheard of in fire service, and basically what we are looking at doing is being more judicious in how we deploy our resources,” he said.

Fire Chief Rich Benton said the changes will not result in more down time for firefighters. Instead, important work that has fallen by the wayside will get done on a more consistent basis, including building inspections, fire hydrant testing, action planning for large-scale operations and training.

“There is always work for the staff to do,” he said. “This will allow us to return to being a proactive department instead of reactive to situations.”

The new contract the city is negotiating with LifeCare will further solidify the city’s position that its Fire Department will not be used as much in the future. Current draft language specifically designates LifeCare as the primary provider of emergency medical services with the Fire Department having the reduced role of as needed first responders.

LifeCare President Pete de la Porte said the switch will not hurt the city. Between April 2009 and the middle of 2010, when layoffs and station closures forced the Fire Department to scale back service, a similar system was put into practice and LifeCare was able to handle the workload, he said.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

  • Mark B

    “We’re looking at good common-sense practices,” he said. “We will not cut out the help that people need, but we are definitely going on a number of unnecessary calls and that has to change.”
    So this has been a big mistake from the very beginning and a big waste of money only to inflate the number of runs thr FF go on in order to garner support for continual raises in contracts .
    This city never ceases to amaze me at the waste of tax payers dollars.

  • Publius Cuyahoga

    The headline at Public Square News says it all: “On the Fly Decisions From Fire Department: WE Will Decide If Your Call Is *Really An Emergency Before We Respond”. Those guys seem to get it. http://www.publicsquarenews.com/

  • Linda Groves

    If a person calls life care to get to the hospital because they fell and broke a leg,hip,ect.,or if a person is having a heart attact,ect., WHY does the fire department responds!???? That has never made any since to me.

    • ohiojim

      Ambulances generally only have 2 personnel per unit and are not always as close as the nearest fire unit. An engine will respond as either a first responder or extra manpower. If they are not needed, they go back, but if an extra set of hands are needed for your care and transporting you’ll be glad they are already there instead of having to wait for them.

      • Guest

        Fire department responds for several reasons. Most ambulances are staffed with two people. Two people are not enough to carry sick and injured to an ambulance. They provide manpower to carry people up/down stairs. When someone is having a heart attack, it requires at least three people to simultaneously perform tests and interventions that save lives. Lastly, when an ambulance transports someone to the hospital, they are unavailable for other calls for an extended period of time. Fire apparatus do not transport patients so they are available to get to the next medical emergency and care for you until the next available ambulance can get to you.

        Firefighters and paramedics are all part of a system to protect you and provide emergency services. It is nit a ploy to get your tax money. We pay taxes, too. We are no more special than the people we serve. We simply enjoy helping strangers often over the needs of our own families. I hope this helps.

        • Mark B

          Enjoy helping stranges is why they sue the city every chance they think they can squeeze another nickle out of the taxpayer.
          Why they have a bad attitude and refused to run rescue 31 because station 2 was closed . Too much politics in the Fire Department and their Union.

        • Summer Smart

          sounds like a ploy to keep jobs; what is the training for if you are only first responders who help carry people. just a bunch of little boys playing with big fire trucks puffing up the ego. Police are the ones who truly put strangers over their families; firemen do it for their ego.

          • ohiojim

            At first I just thought you were a wannabe punk that couldn’t cut it. Then I read your last (should have been 2nd to last) sentence and it all made sense. You’re a joke

    • Todd Marty

      Fire department responds for several reasons. Most ambulances are staffed with two people. Two people are not enough to carry sick and injured to an ambulance. They provide manpower to carry people up/down stairs. When someone is having a heart attack, it requires at least three people to simultaneously perform tests and interventions that save lives. Lastly, when an ambulance transports someone to the hospital, they are unavailable for other calls for an extended period of time. Fire apparatus do not transport patients so they are available to get to the next medical emergency and care for you until the next available ambulance can get to you.

      Firefighters and paramedics are all part of a system to protect you and provide emergency services. It is nit a ploy to get your tax money. We pay taxes, too. We are no more special than the people we serve. We simply enjoy helping strangers often over the needs of our own families. I hope this helps.

  • stop ur whining

    All this equals less work same pay. Pretty good gig. Lets all remember this when federal aid runs out and we need to lay guys off. Then you will hear words like “dangerously low staffing levels”.

    • Mark B

      actually it will mean less ambulance chasing (Gravy Work) and having to do actuall needed work like hydrant testing and building inspections.
      If they would make the FF drive their own vehicle to Apples every day for food and snacks they could probably save another $112K

      • Bob Haas

        If they drove their own vehicles they would no longer be able to respond to calls. Firefighters work as a team so they have to stay together. If the person that’s cooking that day is on an engine and needs to go to get food or other supplies the whole engine goes because they remain together. Mark B what do you do for a living? If you work do you not eat at work? Imagine staying at your job for 3 shifts in a row and not eating. And if it’s a physically demanding job you need to eat. And in case you want to chime up about wasted tax money the only thing taxes pay for is the firefighting equipment the stations and supplies and some furnishings.

        • Mark B

          Here is a grand idea , bring the food you want / need with you at the beginning of your shift , Can they not plan ahead enough to bring their food . most everyone else can pack a lunch or food to take to work with them. I am sure there is a refrigerator at the firehouses

          • Mickey Mouse

            Just wait until the staffing level get low after the government funding runs out. You will see a lot more suspicious fires taking place in abandon houses. This is what happen a few years back when level went low. We had so many empty homes mysteriously have fires.

          • Mark B

            So you noticed that too , and also inoticed that many were within a few minutes walking distance from a fire station.

  • Dairy Queen

    If other cities can make changes to accomodate lower revenues, less manpower, and still provide service why not Elyria. Department Heads need to be held accountable and demonstrate why they’re in their position to “lead” rather than simply make excuses for why something can’t be done. I am not bashing any one person or Department but 20 years of hearing the same old story over and over. If they were unnecessary calls for years why didn’t somebody stop the waste of money then?

    • Mark B

      Because it inflated their Run numbers and made them look more important during contract talks .

  • formerlorainresident

    “Long-awaited audit of Elyria Fire Department is here”
    Filed on July 16, 2009 – Chronicle Telegram

    Results from the 2009, 331-page report detailing the management and operations of the Elyria Fire Department. The audit was called for by the Elyria City Council.

    “The consultants have never encountered a situation of so many allowable days off in any previous study, and the issue of sick leave has not yet been discussed. ”

    During the interview, the consultants were told, ‘Some of us take the entire summer off.’ The consultants initially dismissed the comment, but — in fact — it is apparently very accurate.” The report also addresses compensation for Fire Department personnel. (Note, in 2012, lowest paid firefighter made over $73,000; Several in the fire department made over $100,000)

    It says that the current contract has some very “concerning” and “lucrative” benefits, but it also suggests that there is ample room within the contract to secure concessions to maintain staffing levels while providing personnel with reasonable benefits.

    This is the kicker:

    As far as staffing goes, the report notes that the average full-time firefighter through assistant fire chief works an average of 58 days in a calendar year — less than one-half of the days they are scheduled.

    58 days, are you serious? Less than half the days they are scheduled?

    Don’t believe me, the link is below.

    http://chronicle.northcoastnow.com/2009/07/16/elyria-releases-fire-department-audit/

    • Mark B

      less than half , and thy are making upwards of 70k – 150k a year