BY KALISHA MENDONSA
Lacombe Fire Department (LFD) officials met with City council this week to discuss a number of initiatives, including the current service level agreement between the Fire Department and the City of Lacombe.
City council adopted the current service level agreement with LFD in 2013. The document set a target of 10 minutes for the first primary response vehicle to leave the fire hall, 90% of the time – this is known as a ‘chute time’.
Data collected through LFD over 2015 and 2016 shows that the Department’s response time is actually 11 and a half minutes or less, 90% of the time. Data collected also said the average chute time is about nine minutes.
A motion was passed to amend the target time within the agreement from 10 minutes to 11.5, in order to accommodate the expectations of a realistic response time.
“Part of the reason we’re here with council tonight is to get some kind of direction, as they are the voice of the customer. Obviously, to improve or adjust the service would come with some cost. We came to council to get a feel for what the appetite for change is, or if the service is acceptable the way it is,” said Fire Chief Ed van Delden following the council meeting.
“The sense I have is that there is not an immediate need for change in our levels of service.”
In addition to chute time data, council heard from van Delden the average response times to emergency scenes. The response times within City limits are often less than 10 minutes, but can take up to 15 minutes in northern residential districts of the City, including Henner’s Landing and College Heights.
van Delden said the response time in those areas isn’t considered above-average and simply comes down to the availability of roads in order to reach those communities.
“One of the factors that makes those responses a bit difficult is certainly the north and southbound driving availability within the City. Highway 2A is essentially the only major north-south artery in the community. Most of our responses into that end of the City, we’re heading over to 2A and then heading north and travelling west into those communities – it just adds on the miles to travel,” he explained.
He said as the City, so does the volume of traffic.
van Delden said this is another factor in the calculated response times of the LFD.
One of the ways the LFD is looking to shave time off of their response and chute times is through a new digitally-aided dispatch system that automates some of the procedural calls departments must make to dispatch centres as they respond to a call.
“We’re looking at a mobile computer-aided dispatch, which is an interactive two-way communication with dispatch en-route. On-scene time may not change significantly, but it will change our routine with dispatch.
“Right now, our process is that we have to wait to hear from dispatch, asking us how to respond, and we say, ‘Engine is en-route’. Then they record that time stamp, and if that conversation takes a 15-second interval, that adds to our times.”
The automated response system would allow members of the LFD to utilize hot-keys and automated responses to let dispatch know when members have left the hall, arrived on scene and when they clear the scene and return to the hall.
This automation could shave small amounts of time in determining response times, as members would not have to wait as long for responses and go-ahead from dispatch.
LFD deputy fire chief Drayton Bussiere also presented to council regarding the success of the LFD training programs.
As well, he recommended council support changing the payment schedule for members who have completed training, from the current three-year payment schedule to a one-time payment upon completion.
The one-time payment also reimburses firefighters who have sacrificed a significant amount of their spare and family time to complete the training under this new schedule.
There were no financial implications for this change, and council amended the schedule as recommended.
Additionally, LFD presented to council the recommendation to provide an updated water-rescue craft, which council accepted.
The current craft, deployed only a handful of times throughout an average year, more often in the County than the City, will be replaced with an updated craft next year.