Every Monday the Fire Department, under the leadership of Deputy Director Jim Manning, holds an Executive Staff meeting which includes Fire Chief John Burmeister, Assistant Fire Chief Randy Wyatt, and myself.
Yesterday we had a spirited discussion of how to improve our response time to emergency incidents, police, fire and emergency medical. It is one of those things that we regard as a system. For the desired outcome, we have to look at how fast the dispatchers are answering the calls and processing them into the computer aided dispatch equipment. Then we have to look at how fast they make the radio transmission that sends units on their way. We have to look at when the units or apparatus respond that they are en route and finally at our ability to find the address of the incident. For most aspects our telephone or computer systems can tell us exactly how long things take.
With respect to finding the address, we already know that Auburn Hills has an addressing system that is not particularly consistent. I guess it is a left over of the old township system combined with a newer city system. I’ve worked other places where we could tell approximately where addresses were located based on the intersections and whether it was an odd or even number told us what side of the street it was on. Auburn Hills is not like that so we constantly seek the most efficient ways to find locations in emergencies. For the police who are moving about constantly, we require officers to memorize the streets and how to get quickly from one area of the city to another. They also have mobile computers that have mapping available so they can look up the location. For fire, that is a different proposition. They do memorize the bigger roads but they believe they operate better with map books, which can be hard to keep updated. But even with a good map book, until they arrive on the scene there is no information what side of the street the address is located on or where on a cul-de-sac it is. At night or during a rain or snow storm the problem is exacerbated. Complicate that with a very large truck that isn’t easily backed up or turned around if the address information isn’t correct.
One proposed solution is installing GPS on the apparatus but that isn’t a perfect solution either — once they are on the truck en route to a call they must delay for the GPS to be fired up and the address programmed in, not to mention that the truck has to be outside the bay for it to get a satellite signal. And I already know that a GPS can be wrong too– if you have one you’ve probably experienced locations that it had incorrectly.
So what does this mean to you?
We’ll work out how best to get the equipment you need to you but you can help us–MAKE SURE YOUR HOUSE HAS HOUSE NUMBERS THAT ARE CLEARLY LEGIBLE FROM THE STREET! It makes all the difference in an emergency. And stay on the line with the dispatcher as we are en route–you can give the dispatcher important information that helps us find you quickly.