City of Lacombe adopts new fire response guideline
City of Lacombe volunteer firefighters will continue the practice of not providing medical first response under a new service level policy adopted by council this week.
The issue came up early this year after council was warned that firefighters — many of whom have only standard first aid — were increasingly being dispatched to emergency medical calls, such as patients suffering strokes or heart attacks, when ambulances can’t get their soon enough.
Council voted in January to direct the fire chief to develop new fire response guidelines that would limit the Lacombe Fire Department’s emergency medical response to assisting ambulance attendants with patient lifts from buildings or confined areas.
Volunteers will continue to provide initial first aid at motor vehicle collisions, fire and rescue calls.
The new policy reinforces that approach.
Fire Chief Ed van Delden said the medical first response issue is only a small part of the policy.
“It really was an attempt on my part to ensure that council and the fire department agreed on what success looked like for all our types of responses,” said van Delden.
New to the policy is a section on expected response times. The aim is to have the first vehicle from the station on the road to provide initial response within 10 minutes.
The standard is a useful performance measure to monitor as communities grow, said van Delden.
The policy also outlines the minimum number of personnel expected to respond to different types of incidents and when other fire departments will be called in to help.
Van Delden said in preparing the policy he found the department had “very meagre potential” to extinguish fires from liquids such as gasoline that must be extinguished with foam rather than water.
Given the number of bulk fuel depots and flammable liquid-carrying trains passing through Lacombe, upgrading the department’s capabilities was recommended.
Council agreed to add foam equipment to the new fire engine that is expected to be ordered next month for delivery in the fall 2014. Engines typically cost about $400,000 and on-board foam storage boosts that by about $25,000 to $30,000.