Fire department works to quicken response time
EDMOND — After more than a year at the helm of the Edmond Fire Department, Chief Doug Hall says the department is continuing to improve its response time as it implements a dispatch system that allows fire and police to utilize the same database.
Hall, a veteran of more than 25 years with Edmond's fire department, said he has found the pace busy but rewarding since his promotion in 2015.
The year ahead will continue to bring challenges, he said, including possibly filling six openings created by promotions and retirements, and relocating the city's No. 2 fire station.
“It's been busy but things are rolling along,” said Hall, tapped by City Manager Larry Stevens and the city council for the top fire department job.
“We have a really good staff, which has made it a good transition for me. Our city leadership is second to none,” Hall said.
His initial goal was to address response time. A major focus, he said, has been to improve the department's “turnout time,” which is the time between an alarm and when firefighters are actually on the truck and ready to roll.
“Our goal is to have a 60-second turnout 90 percent of the time,” Hall said. The most recent monthly fire department operations report showed that the 60-second goal was met 80 percent of the time.
“We're happy with that but we want it to get better,” the chief said. The addition of laptops on fire trucks has been a big help in accurately recording turnout time because a crew can actually “stop the clock” the instant the crew is on the truck, rather than relying on a dispatcher to stop it.
Hall said he is happy to report that the city's ISO fire insurance rating in parts of Edmond that are covered by adequate fire hydrants has dropped from a Class 3 to a Class 2. Lowered class ratings result in lower fire insurance premiums, he said.
Portions of Edmond located east of Interstate 35, where fire hydrants are more scarce, have a Class 4 rating, he said.
The department's leadership team includes Chris Denton, deputy chief; Jon Neely, chief training officer; Brian Davis, chief of emergency medical services; and Mike Fitzgerald, chief of fire prevention. Fitzgerald was named to that post in August following the retirement of Mike Barnes.
Neely, Davis and Fitzgerald also serve as assistant fire chiefs.
The new dispatching system went into effect in mid-2015 and has proved its worth, Hall said.
“It's been a really good system so far,” he said. “Like any new system, it has bugs, and there has been a learning curve. But it's good having everything under one umbrella.”
The system allows police and fire to access the same database, giving each department vital information quickly, Hall said.
“Now we can share information with police, such as business contacts for buildings, because we have it in our system. We're not duplicating efforts, and we now use a lot of the same resources.”
He said the system ultimately will save the city money because one vendor supplies both departments with computer software, eliminating the need for interface software that might be purchased from separate vendors.
Fire Station No. 2, now at 1315 S. Broadway, is being relocated to a new station to be located on W. 15th Street, west of Kelly Avenue.
The old station was built in 1976 and needs renovation, Hall said. That building likely will be utilized by another city of Edmond department, once the city administration and council determine its best use, he said.
Hall said two new positions — a deputy chief and a second training officer — are awaiting city council approval. If both are approved, the fire department will have five openings.
“We'll have to start entertaining another recruit school,” Hall said. “We usually wait until we have six openings to have a school.”
Hall said an updated policy manual is “pretty much done,” and is undergoing a final checkover. The last policy manual was adopted in 2009.
He said one long-standing department goal, adding a fire station at Sorghum Mill Road and Kelly Avenue, is under review in light of the city's current tax revenue status. He said relocating a fire station, such as is occurring with Station No. 2, involves no additional personnel or equipment, unlike adding a fire station. The only cost is construction, he said.
“Adding a sixth station will happen, but moving Station 2 is our first priority,” Hall said. “We will have to wait to see what happens with the economy.”
Another goal has been construction of a training classroom at the more centrally located Station No. 1, 925 E.
Second St. Currently, training is conducted at Station No. 5, 5300 E. Covell Road.
The project, which would entail renovation of Station No. 1, is on a list of projects that could be funded by a recently approved half-cent sales tax for capital improvements.
Fitzgerald said the department's prevention program is continuing to build partnerships. Edmond North High School art students recently painted murals and safety slogans at the Children's Safety Village, located at the fire department administrative offices, 5300 E. Covell Road.
“They did a phenomenal job,” Fitzgerald said.
He said the department continues to offer smoke alarms to anyone who needs one, and recently received assistance from local Boy Scouts, who went door-to-door and assisted with installation of smoke alarms.
The city recently acquired 300 smoke alarms from the state fire marshal, he said.
“We want people to know they're available,” he said. “They're not doing any good sitting on shelves.”
The fire department will offer its 12-week Citizens Fire Academy for adults in the fall, Fitzgerald said. The academy, held twice annually, offers information about fire behavior, rescue and emergency operations, investigations, forcible entry, extrication and proper ventilation.
Tours of fire department operations are offered to groups of about 10, he said.
The fire department section on the city of Edmond's website includes information about escaping a fire, safety tips, smoke alarms and the nature of fire, and provides links to other helpful websites.
Edmond fire stations are located at 925 E. Second St., 1315 S. Broadway (soon to be moved to 15th Street east of Kelly Avenue), 1540 W Danforth Road, 1701 W I-35 Frontage Road and 5300 E Covell Road.
For fire emergencies, call 911. For more information about the Edmond Fire Department, to apply for the Citizens Fire Academy, request a smoke alarm or schedule a tour, go to www.edmondok.com or call the administrative and training office at 216-7304 or 216-7303.