The Ann Arbor Fire Department is in the process of evaluating a number of its operating procedures in order to better meet national safety standards.
On Jan. 12, the city of Ann Arbor released a 114-page report by the International City/County Management Association analyzing the efficiency of the AAFD. The report concluded that response times for the AAFD were slower than the national average — at 120.3 seconds for fire response and 121 seconds for Emergency Medical Service response — failing to meet National Fire Protection Association standards of 80 seconds for fire and 60 seconds for EMS.
According to City Council member Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1), the council commissioned the report — which also analyzes organizational methods, efficiency of vehicles and compensation for firefighters — in order to better learn how to manage the fire department’s budget amid the city’s economic difficulties.
The city made cuts in various areas in the last fiscal year, including reductions to the budgets of the AAFD and the Ann Arbor Police Department that led to layoffs and reductions in personnel .
Before making cuts this year, Briere said the city aims to seek the guidance of professional advisers.
“It was not about cutting fire department budget,” Briere said. “It’s about knowing enough to make good decisions.”
Data discrepancies within the report have caused some council members to express concern, according to Briere. The report was initially released in December, but was further revised and redrafted before being re-released this month.
“The firefighters were concerned that the data used in the review was not current,” Briere said. “Data collected, including the number of firefighters on staff, has changed over the period of the report due to the city cuts.”
Briere added that response time data may also be inaccurate because of the way it was recorded, noting specifically that it’s unclear whether the tests measured the time between when the truck leaves the station and arrives at the location, or when the call comes in and the truck reaches its destination.
City Council member Tony Derezinski (D–Ward 2) agreed with Briere, and said the incongruities in collecting information may have skewed the report, or show inaccurate data.
“We believe there may be some discrepancy between how the city calibrated response times and how they were measured by ICMA,” Derezinski said. “We are going to have a work session where we review these statistics thoroughly.”
AAFD Chief Chuck Hubbard wrote in an e-mail interview that the report still needs to be evaluated by the fire department and City Council.
“There is a need for detailed clarification on the response time data,” Hubbard wrote. “Accuracy will be determined after a thorough evaluation of the contents.”
The report recommends that the AAFD consider purchasing quick response vehicles for better efficiency in emergency situations. These mid-sized vehicles, generally the size of a large pick-up truck, can be equipped with a compressed air foam system and an alternative fire extinguisher. The report suggests these vehicles be used in fire stations 3 and 4, located on Jackson Avenue and Huron Parkway, which typically respond to more EMS calls than fires.
“These QRVs may be these more reasonably sized vehicles for the typical EMS response,” Derezinski said. “We are definitely reviewing a cost-benefit analysis on the use of these vehicles.”
The vehicles will cut costs and reduce staff due to their smaller size, the report states. The city will ultimately determine whether or not to utilize the vehicles, but before any changes can be made, the city would first have to renegotiate its collective bargaining agreement with the firefighter union in order to address a three-person minimum personnel requirement for all fire suppression vehicles.
The report also proposed changing some responsibilities — these include training to identify fire hazards, more fire suppression training, using computer programs to solve problems by using the technology to display trends — of the firefighters, incorporating additional planning techniques and strategy software while offering additional methods for training and monitoring of department performance.