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Friday, July 27, 2007

Radio Interoperability and Automatic/Mutual Aid

Everyday poses new issues, new ideas, new incidents, and new experiences. Roanoke City continues to offer better service to its visitors and citizens as well as those in the outlying areas.

Several companies run mutual and automatic aid outside of Roanoke City, as other departments run it into the City.

People have talked about a Metro style department in the past, however that seems to have gone by the wayside with Roanoke County building stations nearly on top of ours. I am sure the County won't mind our personnel working out of Clearbrook as long as possible though. Eventually, the County will have to step up and hire more firefighters. I don't want to get involved in their politics, but someone is saving the County hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by keeping their department underdeveloped.

The Metro department idea was again shown to be a figment of the imagination when the County build a brand new Administration building and 911 dispatch center. If we were even remotely thinking of merging, this would have been the start; to combine the 911 dispatch centers. It may not seem like a big deal to the individual dispatch centers or the individual Administrations but it is an issue on the street.

Case and point:
Roanoke (City) Engine 13 runs a first due in Roanoke City, Automatic aid to Roanoke County and Salem, and Mutual aid to both as well.

If Engine 13 gets a call in Salem, the officer has to:
  1. Mark in route with Roanoke City
  2. Mark out of service with Roanoke County
  3. Mark in route with Salem
  4. Switch to the correct tac channel
  5. Hope that in switching channels and radios that they didn't miss any pertinent information.
What a mess. As it it, Engine 13 has to mark in and out of service with Roanoke County any time we get a City call. We have been laughing at Salem for having to do that for years with the City. I guess what goes around comes around.

Basically, I don't see much issue with running Mutual Aid. I don't know of any firefighters who wont answer the call of duty. The problem I have with it is covering for other departments shortfalls. Salem could probably stand to hire a few more firefighters to fully staff the trucks they have. Roanoke County...where do I begin. I don't see any reason why the County doesn't have 24 hour Fire and EMS coverage at every station guaranteed.


Anonymous said...

The 2 city guys are at clearbrook, so the city wouldn't have to put a station out that way. Stop with that merger stuff. If you want a METRO FIRE DEPT. Move to Florida!!!

FireFleitz said...

Who are you talking to? I am not a proponent of the Merge/Metro style department. Pay attention.

Anonymous said...

With your wording of by the wayside it seeded like you wanted it. I think thats what the first post meant. I could see his point!!!

FireFleitz said...

Ok...Ok...I might see where the point was a little lost in the wording. However I am not a proponent of the metro style department. My point was to negate the point of all of the guys who say that it is still happening.

My bad.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that Engine 13 is not the only unit having to do you brought up units at Clearbrook along with Mt. Pleasant must monitor County and City and give status updates. The same happens with other Roanoke County Companies. As far as Salem goes if they went to a 800 mhz Radio system like the City/County that would resolve a small majority of the problem of interoperability...but I guess it comes down to politics between the localities as always.

Anonymous said...

I would like to respond to your comment about putting 24 hour shifts in all County stations. I am a Volunteer Firefighter and EMT in Vinton and I can tell you the volunteers in the County are much more reliable than the career personnel. It's a sad state when volunteers can respond from home and have trucks out of the building faster than career personnel.

FireFleitz said...

I didn't say anything about career/volunteer. I stated guaranteed 24 hour coverage.

You can look at that several ways, but there is only one way to guarantee that there is 24 hour coverage at any time. That is to have crews at the station. Volunteer or Career.

As for Vinton, I find it hard to believe that personnel responding from their houses can beat other guys who are at the station to the scene. If this is the case then that issue needs to be fixed.

Anonymous said...

This is for the volunteer from Vinton. If what you say is true how come Vinton Fire could not get out on two calls Sat.? If you would like to talk about this give me a call.

Don Altice

Anonymous said...

I am also a Firefighter / EMT in Vinton and though I don't know which member of my department left that previous message, I do have to say that I disagree with it. I am a strong advocate for career/volunteer relations and don't think our station could run without it. I do have to agree with Rhett on 24 hour trucks to a point. I can only speak for my station when saying this, but, if the volunteers don't begin taking their commitments more seriously and showing up for calls, the County will have no choice but to put 24 hour trucks in service to ensure responces. There are too many "T-shirt Wanters" in the volunteer system that need to be held respondsible for and disciplined for non-activity. I want to make it clear that not every Volunteer in Vinton thinks the same way as that other individual. As to be confused with whoever that other member is, I will sign my comment.

Joey Brooks

Anonymous said...

If the county had a volunteer Corr. things could get better.

Anonymous said...

This is for the Vinton comment about staffing. I can assure you that there is at least 1 call per week that goes unanswered. If you don't believe me, we can pull reports. I can't help that you sit out in front of the station and waiting in your turnout gear for a driver that never shows. We have minimum staffing for the career side. You might think that you could be enroute before career staff, but we wait for radio traffic to clear. We could be 2 mins. on the road before marking enroute due to multiple unit marking enroute. Anytime that this ANONYMOUS person would like to go over call times, feel free to call Don or see myself in Vinton.

Corey Gee
Vinton IAFF Local #4316

Anonymous said...

The County still needs work but is much improved over what it had 10 years ago. 10 years ago 24hr career staffing didn't exist. Today, almost every station has a 24hr Medic unit and #5/#7 are 24/7 fire/rescue. I'm know there are areas that still need some work (either volunteers kick it up a notch or place career in station). I think what the "negative volunteer" from Vinton meant about beating career staff out the door from his house was how long it takes some (not all) career crews to get on the truck and out the door.

Anonymous said...

Well you might be right but I know for a fact that the Career guys in Vinton have to go between two stations so it takes time. And the new station that was built will not make it any easier (Bad Design).

Anonymous said...

Having paid staff at every station 24hr just isn't feasible. While it would work at stations 9,6, and 3 where I volunteer. Other stations that don't have the call volume its just not economical at places like 8 Bent mountain 4 Catawba and others

Anonymous said...

So if you or your family live in the outlying areas of Roanoke County and have an emergency, you don't think the deserve to have staffing in the closest station. How could you put a price on someone's life?

I live in the County and I would pay a few more dollars in taxes for more firefighters, paramedics & police officers.

Anonymous said...

It is much cheaper to purchase and maintain a bunch of smoke detectors than pay taxes for an underused paid fire service. My insurance is the same whether there are paid firefighters in a station like Catawba or Volunteers. Still most likely PC 9.

If you want paid firemen then move to an urban area. Don't force higher taxes on those who do not want all of the services.

FireFleitz said...

The next day I work I will place a smoke detector in my seat and see if the fire engine makes it to the call.

The point is that the County needs more firefighters. The need is there, the calls are there. They will not be under utilized. Right now, they are relying on a lot of back up from other jurisdictions to answer the calls.

It would be hilarious to roll up on a fire and see someone throwing a bunch of smoke detectors at it trying to make it go out though.

Your insurance may not change, however your likeliness of being rescued will increase if there are firefighters enroute or on scene.

I never made the differentiation between Paid or Volunteer. I just merely stated that they needed to be at the station to be as effective as possible.

Anonymous said...

The County needs more paid staff and more dedicated volunteers being a volunteer I have to say its hard to get people to stay with volunteering. Just look at the call volume at station 5 in the county, I really feel for the paid staff running the ambulance there.

Anonymous said...

Fleitz, you are being rather silly in regard to smoke detectors. If people install them correctly and in sufficient numbers, there as a 99% chance that there will be no one inside when you get there. The Rescue issue that is continually brought up (usually to justify more jobs) is a smoke screen.

Most firefighters will go their whole career without making a rescue (lets face it, most "rescues" are recoveries anyway). With the increase in plastics and synthetics, the likelihood of survival following being trapped is very low. As a service, we must emphasize early detection, evacuation, sprinklers and better building codes.

After travels in Europe, I noted that the fire brigades there do not see a lot of fire and fire stations are not located all over the place, but at several central locations and house 6-10 trucks. Much of this is due to different attitudes and better construction which reduces the rate of fire spread.

Not doubting that more paid personnel are needed in the county, but my point is that it is not the answer (just treatment of a symptom). Lets face it, EMS now makes up 70% of most runs (spin off EMS and fire trucks would last much longer....). EMS could then get a bunch of taxis to handle 85% of their runs. 8-)

I guess what I am saying is that there are better ways of doing things rather than keeping the status quo. Time for change including the way we staff and address this problem. We can not afford to place career personnel in every building (I know you did not say this, but lets face it, the Union only really has one position on this....more jobs).

FireFleitz said...

Sarcasm I will admit. But if you think that Union = asking for more positions then think again. Most of us just want decent working conditions.

Sure smoke alarms are the first defense for saving lives, but we do more than just rescue. We put the fire out to save property.

The longer you have to wait for firefighters to get there and then the longer you have to wait for enough firefighters to get there = more property loss.

Anonymous said...

No question on property loss, but generally with light weight construction in most homes today, there is not a lot to save anyway. The smoke from the plastics/furnishings will ruin everything contents wise, and the combination of fire, smoke and water will ruin much of the rest.

If a fire is not stopped in it's incipient stage (almost impossible today with the BTUs from the average furnished room - flashes too quickly), I would rather have it go to the ground. Quicker to bulldoze and start over than rebuild a gutted home.

I would much rather pay another $200 a year in insurance premiums than have to pay another $400-$1,000 for paid firefighters, and all of the other government services I do not need. I could retrofit my home with sprinklers with a payoff in 3 years.

My point is, at what cost/benefit ratio? We love throwing money at government in this country and it only ends up costing many of us taxpayers more. I for one am tired of paying for morons who can't even install/maintain a single smoke detector in their homes. They look to government and all the services because they are too lazy to provide for themselves. (Sorry a totally different topic). Lets face it, the users of the services of F&R are usually not the one's paying for it.

FireFleitz said...

Your comment about the light weight construction is true, however here in Roanoke we see very little of it. For the most part we have balloon frame construction that doesn't burn as quick as newer construction and will withstand more fire longer while still being able to be rebuilt. That is probably 80% of our residential structures.