Friday, March 8, 2013

Week Five

This week we met at Troy Fire Station 3. If you have attended any of the Open Houses that the Troy Fire Department has the first Sunday in October, then you will be familiar with some of the things I will be describing.

First, Chief Nelson welcomed us to his station. The fire volunteers have weekly meetings and hands-on training every week. The training is held Monday through Thursday at six stations located in various locations in Troy. The fire station personnel prepared a fantastic meal for us. Chief Nelson stated that they do cook each week for those volunteers who come straight to the station for training. A special thanks to Stations 3 and 4 and any others who made us feel like we were home and part of the family.

Our first speaker of the night was the General Manager from Alliance Ambulance. He spoke about how the ambulances are positioned within the city and the corresponding areas for coverage. They try to position the ambulances to be in the areas that have the most calls at certain times of the day on any given day of the week. This cuts down response time which is sometimes crucial. Within Oakland County, an ambulance has two paramedics. Ambulances in other counties could have an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and a paramedic. Also Troy has SUVs that have a paramedic onboard called a Paramedic First Responder (PFR). This paramedic can arrive at the scene first and have care be given to the patient before the transporting unit arrives. The PFR can call off the transporting unit if it is not needed and they can go back in service to their area.

Returning to be our next speaker was Chief Nelson. The Chief went over the budget which was impressive. For a city the same size and population, Troy’s budget is $10 million dollars less for fire protection. Now, think about what our six fire stations look like, the fleet of vehicles we have and all of the equipment each carries and stores for any needed service call. The service calls can be for fire suppression, rescue, hazardous materials, or assist the police or ambulance calls as needed. Chief Nelson also emphasized that Troy carries an Insurance Service Office (I.S.O.) rating of Class 3 as a Fire Department. This is based on a scale of 1 to 10 and Class 1 is the highest. It is hard to be a Class 1. In Michigan, there are 2 Class 2 and 23 Class 3 departments out of over 1,000 departments.

The Chief stressed that when they get reevaluated, it is week-long process to go through each piece of equipment and test and log it. The Troy Fire Department is in the top 3% of fire departments in the Unites States! We have the largest volunteer department within the State. The Troy Fire Department has one Fire Chief, one Division Assistant Chief, five Staff Lieutenants, 3 Staff Technicians, and one civilian Secretary. The volunteers include 180 firefighters with 36 station officers. The firefighters also wear other hats, such as belonging to the Oakland County Hazardous Materials Response Team, Oakland Regional Response Team or the Communication Support Team. For more information on the description of each, refer to the Fire Teams.

The Assistant Fire Chief spoke on Fire Safety. One point that drew my attention was regarding the disposal of ashes from a fireplace or wood burning stove. If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove and you take the ashes out of the cold stove and place them in a container, the ashes after a week can be still active and burning. That is seven days after you think there is no fire activity because all you have is ashes – you still could have hot ashes.

We had a short video showing the comparison of furniture from 40 years ago with modern day furniture and its chemical components. The old furniture after about 4.5 minutes when lit would have a small fire. The modern furniture had the room more than totally engulfed. The fire department likes to take a proactive stance on fire prevention by teaching what we need to do to remain safe and know what to do if a fire does occur. They have a fire house on wheels that they can fill with smoke to show how hard it is to find your way in a room during a fire. If you have any questions on home fire prevention equipment, their installation, or its use, please contact the fire department at their non-emergency number of (248) 524-3419.

We then went on for some hands-on training and observations. Six stations were set up and a description of each does not do justice to what we saw or experienced.

Station One: Fire House – each participant volunteer was to put on a firefighter’s coat, air mask with tank and a helmet. They were led outside by the station’s Lieutenant as he explained what they would experience with no visibility and to crawl on their hands and knees through the fire house to the exit. Also, you had to yell if you had to communicate with the person next to you.

Station Two: Air Tender 3 – Troy is fortunate to have an air tender. The air tender in manned by two firefighters who go to a fire suppression scene or other required call, in which the firefighters are required to wear a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) or air tank and mask. If another department in the area requests the air tender, it is sent out. The two firefighters are responsible to take the empty tanks off the firefighters and replace them with full ones. The air tender has a compressor onboard that refills the empty tanks. In the old days, the police would load a bunch of empty cylinders in the trunk and then drive to the station and have them refilled and bring them back to the scene. This truck saves time, manpower, and money.

Station Three: Alliance Ambulance – We were inside the ambulance for a short talk and then went to a question and answer session. The paramedics described medical condition calls that they respond to and how the medications they administer help the patient. They reviewed the procedures they have to follow for each call. An example is if you are placing a person on the backboard, there is a certain sequence to which strap is fastened first, second, third, etc. If the sequences of any aid are not followed, further injury could occur. The PFR was parked in front of the ambulance to view the equipment it carries. This ambulance is better suited for patient treatment than the one I used years ago as an EMT. I don’t want to date myself, but the ambulances we had were the old Cadillac station wagon, a van type and an old box type in comparison to what is available today.

Station Four: Extrication – Behind Station 3, a heavy rescue fire truck was set up near a car that they were cutting open. They demonstrated how powerful hydraulic jaws can cut the various pillars of the vehicle so firefighters can peel back the roof to allow the paramedics to extricate the victims. The jaws can also be used to pull the steering wheel away. The firefighters stated that time is precious and sometimes the victim is not doing too well, so they have to do a quick extrication; but, they want to do it in the safest of ways to protect everyone involved from flying glass or metal shavings. This truck is well equipped. We saw airbags that are used to raise vehicles if necessary and the bags onboard could lift a 40-ton semi four feet off the ground. Some of the supplies or equipment that the truck is equipped with includes but is not limited to rope, K-12 rescue saw, cordless tools, torches, chippers, hydraulic jacks, wood for staging, lights, air packs, and hand tools.

Station Five: Ladder Truck - This truck holds 300 gallons of water, which is not very much when it can pump 1,500 gallons a minute. Finding a hydrant is necessary on certain calls. The truck has a mounted ladder that is extended 100 feet in the air. We were invited to go up and view the city from the extended bucket. There were two probationary firefighters there assisting. One of them described that they are on probation until they learn and use each of the trucks and all of the equipment. This could take up to a year after they finish their fire service academy training.

Station Six: Ride-Along – We rode inside one of the engines through part of the area that Station 3 covers.  The engine holds 1,000 gallons, but has a capacity to pump 1,500 gallons per minute so a hydrant is also necessary. There is a computer mounted on the console to view where the hydrants are located near to where fire suppression needs to occur. Dispatch also has the same program and reads off the hydrants, as the person in charge of the scene tells what truck to go to what hydrant and where to stage, to fight the fire. The driver of the engine has to go through extensive training to drive this massive truck – by weight. It has a maximum speed of 60 mph, which is usually done on the expressways.  The truck is equipped with technology to call the lights so they are green as they pass through an intersection. The seats within the truck have air packs built in, but are not strapped on until the truck arrives on scene. And surprisingly, they were comfortable.

If you want to experience some of what we experienced, the Troy Fire Department’s Open House is scheduled for the first Sunday of October each year at any of the six stations. If you have any questions about home fire safety, home equipment, such as ladders, window escape routes, emergency exit response plans, or fire prevention, the fire department is more than happy to take your call on their nonemergency number of (248) 524-3419. If you do have an emergency, please call 9-1-1 immediately and don’t try to handle it yourself. Their website has a lot of useful information: Troy Fire Department

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