The 2009 International Fire Code has been adopted into the Ann Arbor city code, in action taken by the city council on July 1, 2013. The council had given the ordinance change initial approval at its June 17, 2013 meeting.
While the change is essentially administrative – changing the version of the International Fire Code adopted in the ordinance from 2003 to a more recent 2009 – some councilmembers on June 17 indicated an interest in exploring the question of frequency of fire inspections. They’ve heard complaints that fire inspections are being conducted too frequently – as a way to generate revenue.
On June 17, fire chief Chuck Hubbard indicated that some of the confusion could be attributed to re-inspections, which …
A brief ceremony in the lobby of city hall on June 18, 2012 recognized Ann Arbor firefighter Lt. Amy Brow for completion of the U.S. Fire Administration’s Executive Fire Officer Program. [photo 1] [photo 2]
It’s a program that takes four years to finish – with one 10-day course completed each year at the Emmitsburg, Maryland campus. The curriculum includes: (1) executive development; (2) executive analysis of community risk reduction; (3) executive analysis of fire service operations in emergency management; and (3) executive leadership. Each year requires the completion of an applied research project.
Brow’s applied research project for 2010 was an analysis of fire risk caused by upholstered furniture placed on porches. The 48-page report was entitled: “…
At a work session held by the Ann Arbor city council on March 12, 2012, fire chief Chuck Hubbard presented the city council with a plan to reconfigure the geographic strategy for protecting the city against fires. It would rely on three stations instead of five, which would include re-activating one existing station and closing three.
The reactivated station would be Station 2 (south), located near Packard and Stadium. Also remaining active would be Station 1 (center), located at Fifth and Huron in downtown Ann Arbor, as well as Station 5 (north), located on Beal off of Plymouth Road in the northern part of the city.
Closed would be Station 6 (located in the southern part of the city, in the Briarwood Mall area), Station 3 (on Jackson, in the western part of the city) and Station 4 (in the eastern part of the city, south of Washtenaw Avenue on Huron Parkway).
Hubbard contends that the proposal will significantly improve response times for most of the geographic area of the city. Hubbard’s guiding metric for response time is the geographic area that is reachable by at least four firefighters in less than four minutes – a “four-in-four” standard. Four firefighters is the minimum number that must be on scene in order to enter a burning building – to conform with an OSHA “two-in/two-out” regulation.
The existing configuration would provide shorter arrival times for a first-arriving vehicle, but would not provide a complement of four firefighters on that vehicle. Shifting to a focus of four-in-four – from the current configuration that optimizes fastest first-arrival – reflects a prioritization of fire protection over emergency medical response.
The council was shown a video at the work session that presented results of an April 2010 study done by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that investigated the effect of crew size on task performance. Firefighting responses were studied in controlled conditions by sending four crews at a time to the scene of a structure built for that purpose. The study varied the size of the crews among two-person, three-person, four-person and five-person crews – for a total of 8, 12, 16 and 20 firefighters on scene. The study showed that a responding force composed of four-person crews (16 firefighters on scene) was clearly superior to one composed of three-person crews (12 firefighters on scene) – 25% faster overall.
But with one exception, the new Ann Arbor proposal would not increase the crew size for a given vehicle from the current level (three) to four firefighters. The exception would be for the ladder truck at Station 5, which would have a crew complement of four. At a briefing for the press held earlier in the day, Hubbard described part of the advantage of his proposal as allowing for two trucks to arrive together, departing from the same station, to coordinate their activity at the fire scene. In terms of the study presented in the video, this is called “stagger.”
The NIST study showed an improvement in performance by crews arriving spaced more closely together (close stagger) compared to crews that arrived with longer intervals (far stagger). However, the improvement in firefighting performance due to close stagger was not nearly as large as the improvements based on crew size.
During the council’s discussion, it emerged that the restructuring was not motivated by cost-savings, and that no decrease from the current number of budgeted firefighters – 82 – is expected. The station model does not require formal city council approval, but councilmembers will be considering approval of a recently negotiated contract with the firefighters union at their March 19 meeting. The contract includes operational changes that would allow for more effective deployment of Hubbard’s plan. It provides for firefighters to work more hours, in part by reducing the frequency of a mandatory “code day” when firefighters are not scheduled.
After the jump, we take a look at: (1) some additional maps The Chronicle has created; (2) how the maps fit into the overall response-time picture; and (3) councilmember reaction to Hubbard’s proposal.
At a work session held March 12, 2012, the Ann Arbor city council heard a proposal from fire chief Chuck Hubbard that would essentially redistribute existing staffing and resource levels across three fire stations instead of five. Hubbard contends that the proposal will significantly improve response times for most of the geographic area of the city.
Most councilmembers seemed generally receptive to Hubbard’s proposal, but were cautious and in a few cases skeptical. The proposal does not require city council approval. At a press briefing earlier in the day, Hubbard indicated that the new station model could be implemented in July 2012.
The proposal relies on maintaining the current total staffing level of 82 firefighters. That represents a departure from the two-year …