Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

May 23, 2006 > Summer Safety

Summer Safety

When days lengthen and the air grows hot, it's a sure sign that summer is on its way. As we approach the 'lazy, hazy days of summer,' TCV asked Fremont Fire Chief Bruce Martin about safety tips during this time of year.

TCV: What are the most prevalent types of emergency calls that relate to the summer months?

Chief Martin: As we transition from spring to summer, in addition to the normal workload of emergency medical calls, service calls and fires, the Fire Department responds to emergencies resulting from outdoor activities: heat related emergencies, sprain/strains, water related emergencies and fires resulting from barbeques, illegal campfires and improperly discarded cigarettes.

TCV: What precautionary measures should be taken to minimize risk of these situations?

Chief Martin: Maintaining adequate hydration is especially important for seniors and small children who are most vulnerable to high temperatures. Use proper protective equipment while participating in outdoor activities: cycling, skateboarding, roller skating, etc. Limit your exposure to the sun during the hottest portions of the day.

Pool areas should be secure and water-related activities well supervised; use personal flotation devices where and when appropriate and never swim in areas where it is prohibited.

Barbeques and campfires should be restricted to designated areas, away from combustible vegetation and grasses. Never allow children to play around barbeques or campfires. Cigarettes and matches must be properly discarded. Improperly discarded cigarettes and matches, or poorly maintained spark generating machines like lawnmowers, are a major factor in most wildfires.

TCV: If a situation does occur, what should friends, family members or others do to make the job of the first responders easier?

Chief Martin: Promptly notify emergency responder by dialing 9-1-1. Take a course in first aid and CPR and use these skills until emergency personnel arrive. If possible have someone stay with an injured party and designate someone to guide responding personnel to the scene.

In a wildfire, promptly evacuate to a safe location and never block access routes to the emergency scene.

TCV: Why does the fire department respond when an ambulance is on the way? What is the protocol between them?

Chief Martin: The Fire Department's response time goal is to arrive on the scene within 5 minutes and 30 seconds of call-logging at least 90 percent of the time. The City of Fremont maintains ten (10) fire stations and twelve (12) fire companies to try and meet that response goal.

By contrast, the ambulance provider, who is contracted by Alameda County, must be on scene within 12 minutes. There are three ambulances generally within the Fremont area, but they respond to other parts of the County as well.

In Fremont, all fire companies are staffed with at least one paramedic. Given our strategic locations, the Fire Department is most often on the scene first and able to initiate and provide care sooner than an ambulance-only response. This effort, known as First Responder Advanced Life Support, provides more paramedics in the area and means earlier intervention for medical emergencies. Fremont initiated this system that has spread throughout the Bay Area over the last 20 years.

Once on scene, both the Fire Department paramedics and Ambulance paramedics are guided by the same medical protocols and procedures.

TCV: Are all fire department personnel trained in emergency response techniques? Can they handle all emergency situations?

Chief Martin: While firefighting is our historic role in the community (and still an important one), firefighters are "all-risk" responders, with the exception of law enforcement handled by police officers. All firefighters are trained as first responders in a variety of emergencies. However, designated personnel have additional training in specialties like Advanced Life Support, Urban Search and Rescue, Swift Water Rescue, and Hazardous Materials Response. The first response is always the neighborhood fire engine, backed up by additional engines or specialty response units as the incident dictates.

TCV: By calling 9-1-1, are all applicable authorities contacted?

Chief Martin: In California, 9-1-1 calls go to the police or law department responsible for the area. The primary answering point for 9-1-1 calls in Fremont is the Fremont Police Department. Upon receipt of the call, the caller either stays on the line with Police Dispatch because they are calling with a police emergency or, they are transferred to the Fire Department's Dispatch Center because the nature of the call is fire, medical, hazmat, rescue, etc. In the case of a medical emergency, the Ambulance provider is also notified at that time.

Once on scene, all public safety agencies assess the call and make the determination if additional agencies should respond based on the nature of the incident.

Note: Chief Martin would like to thank Division Chief Geoff LaTendresse and Staff Captain Amiel Thurston for their assistance in preparing this information.

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