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Fire department having trouble hitting optimum response times

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett's fire and ambulance response times are slipping, Chief Bill Myers said Thursday.

Firefighters are reaching scenes within six minutes and 30 seconds 71 percent of the time this year, as opposed to nearly 85 percent of the time a year ago

"There is one reason for that: dynamic call volume and static resources," Myers said during a presentation to a budget review team, while pushing for a long-awaited 31st fire station in Gwinnett.

For giving advanced life support within eight minutes, the number has dipped from 71 percent to just under 67 percent of the time. And ambulances are trending away from from the 30-minute American Heart Association standard to get people to the hospital when they are experiencing chest pains. So far this year, the trip is taking an average of 34.87 minutes, two and a half minutes longer than in 2011.

Part of the problem, Myers said, is the over-utilization rate of ambulances, which means that often a unit has to travel from a farther location to reach a patient.

Plus, the need for a patient to be transported to the hospital has increased, the chief said, which could continue to trend upward because of the aging demographics in Gwinnett.

In the past, the county has kept up with the growth by adding stations or units, working to improve the time it takes to switch out apparatus, adding fire trucks to the Fire Academy and other methods, but with limited resources due to the economic downturn, there is little left to try, he said.

That's why Myers has asked officials to move forward with the building of Gwinnett's 31st fire station.

The land, located across from Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, was purchased years ago, as were the trucks. And county sales tax funds have been sitting in the bank for the construction of the new station, as well as a relocation of Fire Station 10 to spread out the coverage area.

The station likely would not open until early 2014, but Myers said the additional personnel needed to man the station's fire engine, ladder truck and ambulance would add about $2.7 million onto the department's budget each year.

"We're not going to be able to completely stop the growth (in calls)," he said, adding that education and enforcement of codes have slowed the volume increase in the areas of apartment fires and water-related incidents. "We do need to increase our capacity."

Comments

teelee 1 year, 7 months ago

Does everything have to be brand spanking new top of the line? Keep some of the older ambulances around for transports and hire more people. There are plenty of fire stations already, do ladder trucks really need to respond to minor accident calls and heart attacks?

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Why_not 1 year, 7 months ago

The ambulances rack up so many miles in such a short period of time, it gets to the point where it is not cost effect to keep them. Safety is also a concern on high mileage vehicles. Also, a ladder truck is only dispatched on accidents or medical calls if there isnt a close fire apparatus available. This helps cut the time needed to get personnel on the scene.

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Icu 1 year, 7 months ago

Who is in charge of buying this 1.3 million dollar ladders that seem to stay in the shop most of the time. The new boat at buford that did not last a week or two before the highly trained personel broke the back off. Fire department waste more money than any other.

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CD 1 year, 7 months ago

Perhaps the EMT's should indeed run vs. walk. Perhaps the fires should be extinguished more quickly and then the hoses rolled up even quicker. To be honest, if a burning structure does not pose a threat to nearby structures, then let it burn down. Why risk lives trying to put the fire out. Let the owner take it up with State Farm.

My point is that if money is always the solution, specifically more taxpayer support, then at some point should Gwinnett County not be responsible to extinguish every fire on the eastern seaboard, each emergency call, and each cat stuck in a tree for the eastern portion of the US?

Give me a break. At some point, you drive efficiencies and simply do more with less.

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Why_not 1 year, 7 months ago

It's obvious you know nothing about the subject we are discussing.....

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CD 1 year, 7 months ago

So you're saying that there are no efficiencies to be had? Fire/EMT services are the epitome of any well-oiled, perpetual, non-fossil-burning, non-polluting, zero-cost machine? The problem is real simple: that does not exist. What do exist are finite resources (TAXPAYER MONEY) and our Gluttonous Heathen leadership does not seem to get that very fact.

This is Gwinnett County. There is PLENTY of waste, fraud, and corruption to be rooted out—even at Fire/EMT.

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Why_not 1 year, 7 months ago

I never said that money couldn't be saved. I was just pointing out your rediculous comment about letting a house burn to the ground. Many times, firefighters do not know if anyone is inside until they have completed a thorough search. If houses are "allowed to burn", how long do you think that would equate to massive property insurance increases for everyone in the county? They are already operating well below recommended standards by responding with only three firefighters per apparatus. It is a little hard to cut back more than that on personnel.

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CD 1 year, 7 months ago

I get carried away with sarcasm at times, agreed, but more so to make a point.

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Icu 1 year, 7 months ago

Fire dept. waste millions

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kevin 1 year, 7 months ago

Planning is out of whack in Gwinnett County. If every time we add a new subdivison we need to add another fire station, police station, etc., we are going to go into a deep hole once again. We need to stop chopping down trees and clearing land and get the empty houses we now have filled up first.

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