Valley News -

By Tony Ault
Staff Writer 

Community Risk Assessment study makes recommendations to improve Hemet's Fire Department's emergency response times

 

Last updated 10/19/2018 at 4:13am

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Hemet Fire Chief Scott Brown and Battalion Chief Greg Lloyd stand in front of a Hemet Fire Department achievement board at the Oct. 6 Hemet Fire Station No. 1 Open House discussing the text and photos of what the money from Measure U, a one-cent sales tax passed by voters in 2016, has done to enhance the department since the Great Recession. The department has grown to 55 members with new and upgraded equipment.

The Hemet Fire Department, while generally up to national standards and improving with Measure U funding, still needs to reach higher levels of service to meet the needs of the growing city population and increasing call volumes.

The recommendation was made following a "deep diving" Community Risk Assessment Standards of Coverage Study made by Don Bivins of Emergency Services Consulting Group International. The results of the risk assessment was discussed by members of the Hemet City Council meeting in regular session Tuesday, Oct. 9.

The study showed the city fire departments emergency response time needed to be improved. The National Fire Prevention Association benchmarks emergency response time of nine minutes for urban areas and 10 minutes for suburban areas nationally. Bivins' study noted that the Hemet Fire Departments response while "not bad" for the size of the city was an average of 9.43 minutes in 2017 while AMR's response time was 14.58 minutes. He said it was good the fire department got to the scene first most of the time.

There were other deficiencies cited in the response times with one being the number of actual "non-emergency calls" taken, such as helping someone back into bed when they couldn't get up themselves and calls for help at two care homes in the city. He said sometimes one station's unit was busy on one call and had to call in help from another station, delaying the responses. The need for more firefighter-paramedics was evident to improve the city response times.

In that regard, the study indicated that the city's five stations are in the best places for community emergency responses. The study was critical of the station and headquarters information systems in incident reporting, suggesting better initial call reports to the responding firefighters might speed up the emergency responses if it is determined the call is a true "emergency call," or a routine call.

Measure U funding was seen in the study as beneficial to improving the city fire department's response time with the additional firefighter paramedics recently hired.

At the Oct. 6 Station 1 Open House during Fire Prevention Week, Brown praised Measure U for improving the department call times over the past two years with the addition of more firefighter paramedics, battalion chiefs and Medic 1 just put into service the first of October.

"There has been a major change in a number of fronts since Measure U," Brown said. "All our vacancies have virtually been eliminated through hiring and aggressive promotions. Newer equipment. We've staffed a full paramedic engine company in Station 5 on the east end. Our Station 4 is now fully staffed with a paramedic. We have had a lot of things that have been attributed to Measure U as we move forward, operationally, budgetary and administrative. There are some things you can't see."

He said with all new equipment and staffing the "heart of the firefighters is the same. We are here for service first... We have the best job in the world."

Brown said after the risk assessment discussion that he would be taking back the recommendations for consideration in the coming season.

The Community Risk Assessment Standards of Coverage Study made these recommendations and set some department goals to reach. It recommends the department gained better collection of analysis of incidence data, acquired needed technology and implemented closest unit dispatch through unit tracking devices, improved turnout times which is the time it takes from alarm to suit up and start engines, improved efficiency of response the EMS incidents between engine arrival and AMR arrival, added response resources during periods of high incidents with higher manpower on duty and implemented community risk reduction strategies.

The council discussed how the community might be better trained to assist in emergencies and the many care centers in the city.

No action was taken by the council as the community risk assessment study was to determine how well the city residents are covered in emergencies with the Hemet Fire Department. They requested Brown return to the council to determine what the best course of action is needed to ensure improving the emergency response times and efficiency of operations based on the study's recommendations.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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