During 2017 the North Haven Fire Department continued to improve upon services with some significant changes. Following an initiative during June of 2016 the North Haven Fire Department proposed an amendment to the existing building permit fee schedule to implement a fee for fire marshal related inspections and plan review for all occupancies with the exception of 1 & 2 family homes. Since that time approximately $1.2 million has been collected which and thus allowed the fire department to hire an inspector to conduct inspections which are required and defined within Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 29-305. This resulted in commercial, manufacturing and multi-family residences being inspected for fire and life safety code compliance for the first time in 20+ years. Fire inspections of properties occur every 1-4 years depending on the occupancy type and other hazards. With over 2600 occupancies to inspect in North Haven fire inspections occur every day resulting in the documentation of violations and working with the property owner or tenant to resolve the issues. A majority of the time property owners and tenants seek compliance however there are times when legal action must be taken and in some cases criminal prosecution is pursued. Ultimately the Town of North Haven has a ministerial responsibility to conduct required inspections and with a fire inspector now solely assigned to this role the legal exposure for the town has been significantly reduced while also making the properties safer for the occupants and responding firefighters.
The North Haven Fire Department currently operates out of four fire stations throughout the town. Headquarters located in the center of town is staffed by career firefighters and the remaining three fire stations are exclusively volunteer fire stations. Headquarters personnel staff an advanced life support (ALS) rescue, a basic life support (BLS) engine and a (BLS) ladder at all times supplemented by six engines provided by volunteer firefighters. Three staffed apparatus respond from fire headquarters today just as in 1974.
In 2017 the North Haven Fire Department responded to over 4200 calls for service. An illustration is included which depicts the increase in call volume. During 2009/2010 the call volume in North Haven reached a point in which the number of incidents was exceeding the amount of available resources resulting in the elimination of specific incident types which were determined to be non-emergent. A call for service means somebody is in distress and/or a fire or rescue incident is actively occurring. One apparatus may respond or several may respond depending on the nature and location of the incident. Regardless of the number of the apparatus or personnel which respond, this only counts as one incident number. We don’t count a phone call, visitor to the FD, fire marshal inspections or investigations as well as public relations as an incident number, if we did our call volume would be in the tens of thousands. During 2017 62% of our call volume was EMS related, 31% were fire incidents and 7% motor vehicle accidents. During 2017, 26% of all incidents occurred simultaneously as one another which means multiple fire and EMS incidents occurring at the same time.
The North Haven Fire Department continues to recruit volunteer firefighters expanding beyond a recruitment hotline established during 2016 for any interested individuals. For additional information on volunteering, please call 203-239-5321 Ext 140. Over the last 10-15 years the number of volunteer firefighters within North Haven has declined from approximately 105 to 45. This decline is consistent with national and regional trends due to a variety of factors which include dual income households, individuals working multiple jobs, employers no longer allowing employees to leave work for fire incidents and increased training requirements. Refer to the illustration which depicts the number of career staff and volunteer firefighters since 1974.
The North Haven Fire Department provides first responder Advanced Life Support (ALS) services by staffing one (1) Paramedic on duty at all times which responds with Rescue 1. This apparatus responded to over 3000 calls for service during 2017. The North Haven Fire Department is dispatched simultaneously to all EMS incidents in town in conjunction with a commercial ambulance service. An overwhelming majority of the time, the North Haven Fire Department arrives on scene first to provide emergency medical care while awaiting the arrival of an ambulance. During 2017 during 353 incidents, the North Haven Fire Department had to commit the on-duty Paramedic to the ambulance during transport to the hospital in order to continue with patient care as required due to the severe nature of the incident. Dozens of lives were saved through the recognition of a myocardial infarction by the Paramedic which activates the cath lab at a nearby hospital to allow for life saving heart surgery. Additionally the recognition of stroke symptoms, administration of intravenous (vein) and interosseous (bone) fluids and medications as well as intubations during respiratory distress or respiratory arrest incidents significantly impacted the health of North Haven taxpayers and visitors.
Since 2009 the North Haven FD has continually staffed one Paramedic on each shift which responds with Rescue 1. The North Haven FD is only able to staff one Paramedic on each shift due to minimum staffing requirements on the remaining fire apparatus which is tasked primarily with fire suppression. During November of 2017, the North Haven FD initiated an EMS billing system to recover costs associated with the practice of providing a Paramedic for transport to the hospital. Anticipated revenue for EMS billing is expected to be $120,000 – $160,000 each year.
The implementation of an EMS billing system allowed the North Haven FD the opportunity to replace an Assistance Fire Chief position that had been eliminated during 1996 and had never been replaced since that time despite numerous attempts to do so. Lt. Scott Martus was promoted to this position and oversees EMS billing for the fire department in addition to providing fire and EMS training for all staff. Training within the fire department has not been standardized since 1991, meaning this position fills a void within the fire department which has been present for over 25 years. Additional training of personnel will retain volunteer firefighters, positively impact our ISO scoring, improve fire scene safety and expand upon our services.
The North Haven Fire Department shares statistical information with the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) allowing for incident analysis reports to be readily available. Of interest are the frequency of fire and EMS incidents occurring by the day of week within the Town of North Haven which were: Sunday, (11.56%), Monday (15.21%), Tuesday (14.06%), Wednesday (15.17%), Thursday (14.96%), Friday (15.21%) and Saturday (13.79%). The busiest time periods were from 7:00am to 9:00pm with at least one fire unit arriving on scene to all incidents within 7 minutes 76% of the time. In terms of where fire and EMS incidents occur, 54% of incidents occur within residential occupancies, 15% outside which include streets, roads and highways, 15% at healthcare facilities and physician offices, and 5% at mercantile establishments with the remaining percentage of calls occurring at schools, manufacturing facilities, etc.
Do you know the difference between an EMT and a Paramedic?
EMT’s: Commonly referred to as BLS. Course length is 120-150 hours in length. EMT’s are educated in many skills including CPR, providing oxygen, administering glucose for diabetics and helping others with treatments for asthma attacks or allergic reactions. With very few exceptions, such as in the case of auto-injectors for allergic reactions, EMT’s are not allowed to provide treatments that require breaking the skin; that means no needles.
Paramedics: Commonly referred to as ALS. Course length varies between 1200-1800 hours. Considered highest level of medical providers able to respond to emergency scenes. Highly educated in advanced skills such as administering medications, starting intravenous lines or intraosseous (drilling into the bone), providing advanced airway treatment including intubation, recognition through the interpretation of electrocardiogram of a heart arrhythmia including a heart attack, stroke recognition and narcotic administration available for pain relief.