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Fire Department response times evaluated

Improvement seen in most categories; rare technical rescues fall short of goal

Spokane Valley Fire Department commissioners heard a mostly favorable report Monday on how often the department met its response-time goals in 2011.

Response times for each type of call between 2008 and 2010 were analyzed to get the baseline response time, which was set at the 90th percentile. The department has set the goal of lowering those baseline response times by 30 seconds over the next few years.

The 2011 results show that the department is meeting the baseline in almost every category. The baseline response time for the first engine to arrive at a fire is 8 minutes and 56 seconds, and in 2011 the department responded in 8:48 or less 90 percent of the time. The fire effective response force time, which includes having 14 firefighters on scene, was at 14:04, well under the baseline time of 15:22. There are usually three or four firefighters on each truck.

“We used to do it by how many trucks showed up,” Capt. Pat Schaffer said. “Now we do it on the number of personnel. It wasn’t the most accurate way. That’s why we went to personnel.”

The problem areas were technical rescue (first-arriving apparatus), technical rescue (effective response force) and hazardous material (first-arriving apparatus). The technical rescue effective response force requires nine firefighters, three of whom must have technical rescue training, and a technical rescue apparatus on the scene.

The hazardous material first-arriving apparatus baseline response time is 9:06. In 2011 the 90th-percentile response time was 9:38.

More analysis must be done on why those response types did not meet the baseline, Schaffer said. Part of the problem is that the specialized personnel and equipment for technical rescue calls are scattered across the department’s response area. “We have them at a couple stations,” he said. “They have to jump on a different vehicle.”

Part of the statistical problem may also be that the department had only 17 technical rescue calls in 2011, Schaffer said. “It doesn’t take too many to skew that,” he said.

The response times are much quicker than two years ago, when the department didn’t have its own swift-water rescue team and had to wait for a response from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office or the Spokane Fire Department, Schaffer said. “Obviously, we’re moving in the right direction,” he said.

In 2011 the department responded to 370 fire calls, 38 wildland fires, 5,754 basic life support calls and 4,314 advanced life support calls.

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