Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

The Glendale Fire Department has issued its 2016 Performance Report. Here is the link to the report: https://www.glendaleaz.com/fire/documents/2016AnnualReport.pdf . Glendale has 9 fire stations. Two of them are now quite old – Station 152 located at 6850 W. Bethany Home Road was built in 1979 and Station 153 at 14061 N. 59th Avenue was built in 1974. Over the years these stations have received remedial patches but at some point, they will have to be replaced.

The services offered by the department fall into 5 major categories: Fire Suppression, Emergency Medical Service (EMS), Special Operations and Technical Rescue; Special Operations and Hazmat and Crisis Response. In their list of 5 major categories there is no mention of the categories of Fire Prevention or Public Education. Yet Glendale’s Fire Marshall’s Office performed a total of 4,216 inspections last year and fire department staff and volunteers offered 543 educational presentations and events.

I found the report lacking in the kind of information I, as a councilmember, and you, a resident of Glendale, would have found useful. I have asked the department for further information just recently and I am sure they will provide responses shortly.

Since approximately 90% of fire department responses are EMS (35,247), where are the stats on the number of Advanced Life Support (ALS) calls and the number of Basic Life Support (BLS) calls? The remaining 10% (3,447) are fire calls. What is the department’s current response time? I assume it is still within national fire standards but there is no information provided.

As I and many Glendale residents have stated over the years, sending a huge fire truck to answer medical calls is a waste of resources. I am pleased to see that the department now has two “Low Acuity Units” to respond to BLS calls. These are smaller vehicles with appropriate personnel that respond to non-life threatening medical calls. It was a pilot project that immediately proved its value as has been demonstrated by Mesa who has used this system for years. I am disappointed that the implementation of more Low Acuity Units has not been accelerated. There should be one of these units at every fire station in Glendale, not just at two of them. This program deserves to be a priority of the department. Now it is time to implement a sister program that addresses ALS calls. When this system of medical response is fully implemented the department will become more flexible and agile while delivering the best service possible at the least cost to Glendale taxpayers.

I also noted that, “fifty-three fire personnel were deployed to 32 separate wildfires across the nation.” What was the total cost to our taxpayers to do so? Including transportation, meals, lodging and any special or overtime pay?

No information is provided on the effects of Automatic Aid to our City. Why were no numbers provided on the number of calls the City responds to outside of our City? What cities? And the total number of calls outside the City provided to each jurisdiction? Why were no numbers provided on the number of calls provided by outside agencies to our City? Which cities? And in what numbers?

I suspect that as in previous years there is still an imbalance between the number of times the city’s department answers calls outside of Glendale and the number of times other cities respond to calls within Glendale. Historically Glendale answers far more calls outside of its city limits than others cities’ responses within Glendale. It costs the taxpayer to subsidize services to other cities.

I still believe that while the concept of Automatic Aid is sound, the lack of equitable implementation remains unfair to the participants. Glendale and other cities that answer far more calls outside their city limits should be reimbursed by those cities receiving the additional aid. There is a regional Automatic Aid Agreement that is reviewed and approved every year. All Fire Chiefs have an opportunity to review and amend. I know there are fire chiefs that are familiar with this issue but to date they have been reluctant to address it.

There is good news within this year’s report. One of those is the Crisis Response Unit. It has 3 paid staff but it is primarily a volunteer unit with volunteers donating over 13,000 hours while responding to 1,156 calls for service. Volunteers are also the backbone of the department’s public education program donating 787 volunteer hours. Another good news item is the full implementation of the Electronic Patient Care Reporting (ePCR) system. It is a tablet based patient charting system that replaces paper reports. It saves time and money and now the records can follow a patient electronically.

The report was good but it could have been better if it included some of the items discussed above. In order to be fully transparent the current department response time and effects of Automatic Aid should have been included. In addition, some information about the department’s plans for the two 40 year old fire stations would have been helpful.

The men and women of the Glendale Fire Department give their all to serve us in our hour of greatest need. I appreciate their commitment to our community. However, senior management has the responsibility to provide us a full and complete picture of their operations, including the good, the bad and the ugly.

© Joyce Clark, 2017               


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