All things Fire and Protective Services
Let’s talk fire. Let’s talk emergency. Let’s talk essential services.
Watch the video on all things fire on my facebook page.
Earlier this year, our city council approved a $20 million (figure isn’t finalized) renovation to our current protective services located in downtown Spruce Grove. This hall will be the fire hall as well as as the location bylaw services and dispatch services are located.
Renovation vs. Second Hall
So why did we do a renovation rather than building a second station or even building two new stations (strategically placed, possibly leaving downtown as is for bylaw services or dispatch).
Our city is growing and it’s growing outward, not up. It takes several minutes to get across town. So how is it that our emergency services can meet their 320 response time to the outer limits of our newer neighbourhoods?
Reports say they do. I beg to differ and until raw statistics can be provided, there is no proof to say they are other than a presentation to council saying so.
First and foremost, this process seems flawed. Why was there not an independent feasibility study done to determine whether a renovation or a second hall was the best way to proceed? We have done an independent feasibility study on every other building we’ve built in the city, why not this one? This is highly questionable and looks to be an unfair and closed process.
Our land footprint has grown dramatically and yet we’re still okay with one station? When similar cities our size have two stations? When cities larger than us have more stations and for populations of 16,000-20,000 per station? Yet we’re okay to have one station to satisfy our growth for the next 12+ years?
Statistics aren’t the Full Story Here
Response times are just one issue. The way we measure our response time and what that time is keeps changing (300 seconds to 320 seconds to 8km). But seconds matter, are you really comfortable with a changing target like that?
Show us the statistics. If you have the majority of your calls coming from city centre, you will make your response time 100% of the time. Yet, if we have calls from the further reaches of the city, they will make their response time 0% of the time. Statistics matter, but they can be misleading if you don’t know how the data was gathered.
A second hall is needed. Think about our city and the industrial area south of us. They can’t be serviced properly should their be a train. And the annexation proposal will absolutely require plans for a second hall. We have more seniors centres being built and they’re on the further edges of the city. What would happen with a fire or a medical distress call? Will we wait until a disaster strikes before we act?
And it’s not just response times. The fire department is not fully manned. Through no fault of the members, they are consistently working short handed. We have staff on long term disability, illness, vacation etc.
You need 4 men to man a truck. You need 4 men for the ambulances. We have 7 firefighters on staff any given night. You do the math. If both ambulances are away on call, that leaves us three men to man the truck. How are we not even meeting our minimum staffing standards? We should be following NFPA standards yet we seem to be falling short. And again, are we prepared to wait for a disaster to happen before we finally address the issue?
It’s not just fire. It’s any medical emergency, it’s any hazmat situation, it’s any incident that requires first responders on scene. They are the insurance policy you hope you never have to cash in but boy are you glad they’re there when you do.
In the 2018 budget, four positions that were earmarked for fire services were cut. This would have enabled Spruce Grove to at least meet their minimum manning requirement. Right now, they can’t. We have to revisit this as a new council.
Protective Services Master Plan
We need a protective services master plan and we need it yesterday.
Every town and city around us has a fire or protective services master plan. The City of Edmonton has an excellent master plan. Having this plan will take the politics out of planning.
A protective services master plan will tell us:
- how to plan and strategically place fire hall locations
- how to man the different stations
- the types of apparatus’ you need
- the maintenance and life cycles of the equipment
- assist our firefighters with their mental and physical health (PTSD, illnesses etc.)
They deserve our support and we have to treat them as they are- an essential service to Spruce Grove. Perhaps it’s time we get back to basics here and make sure we can service our city before we build buildings and residences we can’t protect.
Let’s be proactive even though we’re already too late but let’s start the planning now and catch up before disaster strikes and time to make a concerted effort to support our protective services.