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Posted: 04/23/14

WTFD to switch dispatch
to Oakland County

Bruce-Romeo Fire Department considering a similar setup

Observer Staff Writer
      By working to improve their own services, local fire departments could save residents some money in the long run.
       On April 2, the Washington Township Board of Trustees approved of its fire department entering into a dispatch agreement with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.
       The agreement is expected to improve dispatch response times and possibly reduce insurance costs for residents. The Bruce-Romeo Fire Department (BRFD) is mulling over a similar deal.
       Washington Fire Chief Brian Tyrell said the department isn't keeping up with National Fire Protection Association standards for its dispatch, so it sought out ways of improving communications.
       "What we're talking about here is growing pains . . . and how to get through it without the money to increase staffing," he said.
       Washington Township's emergency dispatch works by the Macomb County Sheriff's Office sending out the department's units. From there the department takes over the remaining dispatch for the situation.
       This requires a firefighter to man the dispatch desk outside of normal business hours that could otherwise be at the site or not be on duty.
       With Oakland County handling it, Tyrell said he expects to see cost savings, but also gain real-world benefits on both sides of a call.
       "I think the other person on the other end who is calling 911 is going to see some rewards from this because they're going to know that help is on the way a lot sooner," he said.
       The agreement will tentatively last from June 1, 2014 to March 31, 2015. The board agreed to costs not exceeding $50,000.
       Supervisor Dan O'Leary said the township decided against going with Macomb County's new communications center for the time being since Oakland is already set up to handle Washington's needs.
       "They (Macomb County) will get to a great point in the future       Oakland County's dispatch handles services for 17 fire departments. Around 92 percent of its calls are answered in under 10 seconds.
       Tyrell said the switch will also improve the township's Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating, which reflects a community's fire suppression and prevention capabilities. A department's staffing, location, hydrant system and communications are factored into the rating, which can go from one to 10. The township has a rating of nine.
       ISO ratings play a role in homeowner's insurance. The lower a rating the lower insurance will cost, and vice versa.
       BRFD Chief Ken Staelgraeve said the department is looking at similar changes for its dispatch, but wants to see how it works in Washington first.
       "We will have to do something in the future with our dispatch as well," he said.
       The BRFD uses a paid-on-call firefighter or secretary dispatcher after the county sends out the units.
       Staelgraeve said even with changing dispatch, it would be tough to improve Bruce Township's ISO rating of nine since the majority of its parcels lack fire hydrants.
       "If you can improve your communication services, improve your training and improve your water delivery using tankers and that sort of thing, there is the possibility of moving to an 8B," he said.
       He said, though, that a community's ISO rating doesn't determine how well a department performs. For instance, the BRFD also covers the Village of Romeo, which has a ISO rating of five because of its water system.
BRFD staffing

       The Bruce Township Board of Trustees voted 5-0 on April 16 for having paid-on-call firefighters cover shifts. The agreement became effective April 17.
       Staelgraeve said stations two and three are each manned with two full-time firefighters, so only one firefighter is available to respond to situations when the other takes leave time.
       The department will pay $11 an hour and $13 an hour to cover the shifts. The rates are in line with what first-year firefighters earn, and no benefits will be provided.
       Local firefighter union 4076 approved of the letter of understanding. Staelgraeve said the union's agreement shows they are dedicated to providing high levels of service despite tight budgets.
       "If I would've proposed this sort of solution in 99 percent of the fire departments that are unionized in this state, I would've got run out of the station," he said.

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Retrieved 8/4/2015 at 3:54:30 PM.
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