Stories indexed with the term ‘Huron Valley Ambulance’

A Closer Look at Ann Arbor’s Fire Station Plan

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.

Fire Department Response Times

Map 1. Ann Arbor fire chief Chuck Hubbard's plan is to protect the city from fires with three stations (red helmets): Station 1, Station 2, and Station 5. Closed would be Station 3, Station 6 and Station 4 (gray helmets). Station 2 is currently not used and would need to be re-opened. The light blue area is the part of the city that is reachable by at least four fighters within four minutes. Red dots indicate fire locations over the last decade. (Map is de-skewed from the original one provided by the city, with additional labels by The Chronicle. Image links to higher resolution file.)

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. [Full Story]

Starting the Year with Fire and Ambulance

Huron Valley Ambulance call taker

Huron Valley Ambulance supervisor Terry Pappas, working on New Year's Eve. (Photos by the writer.)

The ball in Times Square has dropped a couple hours earlier.

Now, Terry Pappas, shift supervisor at Huron Valley Ambulance, is on the line with an elderly caller who’s lying on the floor, unable to get back into her chair.

“I know you’re miserable,” Pappas comforts the caller, as they wait together for the ambulance to arrive.

And then, still lying on her side on the floor of her apartment, still audibly in distress, the caller musters a surprising bit of cheer. She offers Pappas the salutation of the night: “Happy New Year!” Pappas responds in kind. The caller tells Pappas she didn’t watch the ball drop – you know what’s going to happen, she says … it drops every year.

A few minutes later, HVA staff can be heard in the background. They confirm for Pappas that they’re on the scene, and Pappas and her crew move on to fielding other calls.

It was not by accident that The Chronicle chose to spend part of New Year’s Eve with Huron Valley Ambulance. [Full Story]

Drive Thru Flu Shots Test Preparedness

medic prepping a flu vaccination in a garage bay

Huron Valley Ambulance medic prepping a flu vaccination shot for administration as part of Saturday's immunization clinic. (Photo by the writer.)

Last Saturday morning, The Chronicle rolled south down State Street just past I-94, turned right at the Citgo gas station and headed for Huron Valley Ambulance headquarters on State Circle. At 9 a.m. HVA medics and staff had started delivering seasonal flu shots “pit crew style” to motorists who waited in their vehicles at one of four stations in two open garage bays.

The early rush already put two dozen cars ahead of us.

Around 15 minutes later, The Chronicle was immunized against the regular, seasonal flu – but not the H1N1 variant known as “swine flu.”

The drive-through clinic was scheduled to go through 3 p.m., but around 1 p.m. Joyce Williams, HVA’s public affairs manager, began explaining to motorists that the 400 doses they’d started with were gone.

Williams started giving directions to other locations where flu shots were available: Concentra (3131 S. State St. in Ann Arbor – 734.213.6285) as well as a series of clinics through St. Joseph Mercy that are staffed by Michigan Visiting Nurses Association nurses. [Link to .PDF]

For a list of additional seasonal flu shot clinics, the American Lung Association has created a flu shot clinic locator.  [Results of ALA locator for 48103 zipcode]

After the jump, more on the HVA clinic, as well as the local arrival of the vaccine against the current H1N1 variant of the flu, which was announced today. [Link to .PDF] [Full Story]