Jan 30, 2012 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
The Elbridge Fire Department of 2012 is a far cry from the department whose contracts were suspended in February 2011. One year later, the department has reorganized, and re-energized, to continue serving the Elbridge community.
In an unprecedented move, the village declared a state of emergency in February 2011 and suspended contracts with the fire department after medical calls went unanswered and mutual aid calls had lengthy response times.
The department was facing an extreme shortage of volunteers, like many departments nation-wide, and couldn’t get to the calls in an appropriate time. But in just less than a year, they’ve dropped their average response times by about three minutes, increased the number of people showing up for calls and have reenergized the department.
Last week, 14 volunteers showed up for a car accident, a high number but an encouraging sight, said Chief Bill Champlin. Champlin took over as chief in April, having been a member of the department for about six years.
Some of the primary complaints of the village included a list of incidents where vehicles never left the station for medical calls or mutual aid calls took a half-hour to get a truck full of volunteers together.
“We were lucky if we got one or two people before,” said Champlin. “We’re averaging eight people now, we’ve had as many as 21.”
The department has at least 33 active members, bringing back some of the older members who had quit amid the controversy. The department is also seeing an increase in young people joining the department, and recently had an influx of new EMT recruits.
“Prior to this, quite often, it was only the chief who responded to calls,” Champlin said. “We’re much more cohesive now. We’re working together as a group.”
Mayor Hank Doerr, who called for the state of emergency, says he is much happier with the department’s performance.
“If it’s a very dangerous situation and you don’t have the backup you need to get in and save someone, now, it’s there,” he said. “They’re doing the best they can for the community.”
The department’s average response time has decreased about two minutes between February and December 2011.
“Response times are important to the community because the quicker, more efficient we can get to the fire, the quicker we can provide the service to the citizens,” said Kevin Wisely, the commissioner for Emergency Management in Onondaga County. “The sooner we can get there, the sooner we can help save lives.”
Wisely said response times vary between each fire department or district, contingent upon numerous factors. In February, Elbridge was averaging nearly 11 minutes to get an apparatus, like a fire engine or pumper, to any incident, whether it was within the Elbridge fire protection district or as a mutual aid call. By year’s end, they were averaging 7 minutes, 40 seconds.
The February response time was due to, in part, not being able to get volunteers to the station in a timely fashion, Champlin said.
“Most departments have their ups and downs with membership, training and staffing so it’s really a partnership working together,” Wisely said. “The ultimate goal is to provide service to our citizens.”
The department has also worked with neighboring departments, creating agreements for mutual aid. They’re finalizing plans with the Camillus Volunteer Fire Department and are in talks with the Sennett Fire Department in Cayuga County.
These working relationships within the department, and with other fire departments, is integral to the increased time in the last year, Champlin said.
“I think the members are happier,” he said.
“And morale is higher. We work together as a team,” first assistant chief Kevin Mead added. “We’re here for the community and we’re not going anywhere.”