Lexington Fire Department
Geographical Information System
Fire Suppression Capability Analysis
This report summarizes the results of an analysis of station location and emergency response times for the Lexington, Massachusetts Fire Department. Currently, Lexington fire stations are staffed with a minimum number of personnel who respond on appropriate apparatus, determined by the type of call received. Current station staffing and unit deployment, as well as recommended station staffing and unit deployment are detailed later in this report. The current and Town proposed fire department station staffing and unit deployment plan has been evaluated using the ArcView 3.2a and Network Analyst Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.
In recent years, there has been growth in the general areas in, and surrounding, Lexington. Expansions have included residential and commercial constructions, accompanied with population increases. These developments have, in turn, led to increases in demand for emergency services. The fire department has generated a proposal addressing these issues, including the need for additional personnel to manage these demand increases. This study examines predicted response times and geographic coverage for fire department units deployed from current station locations and compared with national standards and safety regulations.
This study examines predicted response times and geographic coverage areas for fire department units deployed from current fire stations in Lexington, Massachusetts. Upon analysis of resource deployment and the geographic areas expected to receive coverage from fire department units responding to an incident, it was revealed that the Lexington Fire Department (LFD) currently does not deploy sufficient personnel and apparatus and fails to meet performance objectives described in current industry standards.
Specifically, the following analysis of the Lexington Fire Department concludes that:
These measures will work to ensure that the Lexington Fire Department evolves into compliance with established NFPA industry standards and safety regulations. Moreover, it promotes safer and more effective fire suppression and disaster incident mitigation, while expediting the delivery of essential fire and emergency medical services to the citizens of Lexington.
This analysis shows the extent of coverage provided by the Lexington Fire Department with units responding from current station locations. The Lexington Fire Department has progressively allocated its resources to provide the best coverage available with those units. The problem remains that current coverage fails to meet any minimally accepted industry standard. Whether exploring 4-minute, 8-minute, “2 In/2 Out,” NFPA 1710 standard Section 18.104.22.168.1, or NFPA 1710 standard Section 22.214.171.124.1 LFD coverage fails to meet industry standards. The results show that the Lexington Fire Department is understaffed, and current staffing levels should be supplemented with additional resources, including the addition of at least one new station.
Information provided by the fire department indicated that there are approximately 3,600 fire and EMS responses annually. Recently, the frequency of medical calls has increased, due to growth in the area. Therefore, fire department units are frequently already assigned to a response when a simultaneous or concurrent call is received. The maps in this study are based on the assumption that all fire department units are available for immediate response when a call for service is received. If units are already responding to other calls, coverage as shown in this report will decrease. The addition of more fire stations, staffed apparatus, as well as increased staffing on all apparatus will assist in reducing the time citizens spend waiting for emergency response.
The Lexington Fire Department utilizes a minimum staffing requirement of 3 firefighters each Engine Company (1 and 3) and Ladder 1. The department also cross-staffs the reserve rescue unit with the ladder company crew. This practice results in the ladder company being unavailable when the reserve rescue unit is called to respond to the approximately 450 emergency medical calls the unit handles each year. The fire department asserts that this policy enables the Department to handle increased call activity without adding costly resources. However, according to the National Fire Protection Handbook, staffing an Engine or a Ladder with insufficient personnel may lead to a loss of efficiency and increased fire losses. The Handbook states, “Staffing fire apparatus at a level below minimum requirements can result in a less effective and less safe fire fighting performance,” and that calling for additional assistance “should not be relied upon to replace adequately the required staffing and equipment needed immediately at the scene for initial attack and rescue.
Several existing National Fire Protection Association standards address these minimum staffing requirements. NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety and Health Program states, “while members can be assigned and arrive at the scene of an incident in many different ways, it is strongly recommended that interior firefighting operations not be conducted without an adequate number of qualified fire fighters operating in companies under the supervision of company officers. It is required that a minimum acceptable fire company staffing level should be four members responding on or arriving with each engine and each ladder company responding to any type of fire.” NFPA 1710 states “Fire companies whose primary functions are to pump and deliver water and perform basic fire fighting at fires, including search and rescue, shall be known as engine companies. These companies shall be staffed with a minimum of four on-duty personnel…Fire companies whose primary functions are to perform the variety of services associated with truck work, such as forcible entry, ventilation, search and rescue, aerial operations for water delivery and rescue, utility control, illumination, overhaul, and salvage work, shall be known as ladder or truck companies. These companies shall be staffed with a minimum of four on-duty personnel…In jurisdictions with tactical hazards, high hazard occupancies, high incident frequencies, geographical restrictions…these companies shall be staffed with a minimum of five or six on-duty personnel.
The Town has notified the department that it may face budget reductions in fiscal year 2004 and is looking at reducing minimum staffing levels despite the fact that current staffing levels do not meet accepted industry standards. The fire department should be increasing minimum staffing levels in an effort to move closer to meeting NFPA Standard 1710 staffing performance objectives. Additionally, the removal of an engine company from the East Lexington Station will increase response times. The Fire Department states that, “During a medical emergency minutes, in fact seconds count! The response of the closest fire engine to your emergency brings trained firefighter/EMT’s and paramedics to your home within minutes. Emergency life saving equipment such as oxygen, semi-automatic defibrillator, epinephrine, and other medical equipment are carried on the fire engine for use by there trained firefighters. This most often occurs in East Lexington, as the ambulance/rescues are stationed at Headquarters and are delayed due to the distances they must travel.”Also, the department states that it “is currently undergoing a training program to educate EMT’s to the paramedic level. ”Yet the personnel most likely to participate in this advanced medical training may also be the members that would lose their jobs in the initial round of staffing reductions.
While there is little precedence governing how the various fire protection standards, such as NFPA 1710, NFPA 1500, and the “2 In/2 Out” regulation” might be used in lawsuits, and potentially relied upon by courts to determine the “industry standard” for fire protection and safety measures, it is safe to assume that the level of fire and emergency medical services provided by a jurisdiction will be compared to these standards in courts considering such lawsuits, even where the particular jurisdiction has not specifically adopted these standards. As such, it is fair to say that Lexington may assume some additional legal risk by failing to abide by these national safety benchmarks.
Therefore, it is imperative that staffing on all apparatus be increased to a minimum of four personnel at all times to ensure both fire fighter and citizen safety. It is also recommended that the Lexington Fire Department evaluate the feasibility of additional stations to enhance coverage throughout the jurisdiction, and to provide needed coverage to the areas of the district where it is currently lacking.
While it is impossible to predict where most of a jurisdiction’s fire and medical emergencies will occur, the Lexington Fire Department should examine where emergencies have typically occurred in the past and make efforts to ensure these areas continue to enjoy the same level of coverage, while adjusting resources and deployment in an effort to achieve complete compliance with NFPA standard 1710. Areas with accelerated development and growth will require additional coverage in the future. Any projected increase in emergency response demands should also be considered before changes are implemented, focusing on associated hazard types and planned response assignments. Any proposed changes in staffing, deployment and station relocation should be made only after considering the historical location of calls, response times to specific target hazards, compliance with departmental Standard Operating Procedure’s, NFPA standard 1710, and the citizens’ expectation of receiving an adequate number of qualified personnel on appropriate apparatus within acceptable time frames.
Further evaluation of deployment and staffing in the Lexington Fire Department is warranted. System evaluation should be completed using industry standards and safety regulations as guides. System evaluation should use ArcView or an equivalent geographic information system model to assess any potential changes in deployment. All options should be modeled and explored before any changes are implemented. The fire department should incorporate options into a long-term strategic plan which would assist in deferring costs of enhanced staffing and equipment utilization over a period of time.
(This capability anaylsis was completed in March 2003, but is still reflective of the department today as little has changed. One thing that has changed is the change over to a ful Advance Life Support (ALS) provider with over 50% of our firefighters having training to the paramedic level.)