87° F Sunday, June 25, 2017

Robert Abbott

Robert Abbott

LTFR Interim Fire Chief

Fire Watch

By all measures, 2012 was a busy year for Lake Travis Fire Rescue, if not on the emergency scenes definitely in the planning, training and management of its daily operations.

One of the most significant enhancements to service delivery LTFR is putting in place in 2013 is an increased staffing model on selected emergency units. On Feb. 17, a dozen new firefighters started their careers with Lake Travis Fire Rescue. It marked a large step for the organization as it put LTFR closer to staffing all of its fire units with a minimum of four firefighters; a focused goal almost 10 years in the making.

What benefit does four-person staffing provide the community?

To answer this question we first have to look at the number of fire ground tasks that must be performed in a rapidly deteriorating situation and the calculated risks the fire companies must take to effectively and safely rescue victims and control quick moving fires.

Based on our fire ground procedures, the first arriving crew must perform more than 12 tasks within 120 seconds of arriving on scene. The time it takes a company of three consisting of one lieutenant, one engineer/driver and one firefighter to complete just some of the necessary and procedural protocols is lessened by almost 50 percent when a fourth firefighter is added to the team.

The International Association of Firefighters conducted a series of time trials that assessed the effectiveness of a three-person crew against a four-person crew when combating a two-story residential structure fire, which represents the bulk of the fires LTFR responds to each year. The study reported a 73 percent increase from a three-person crew to a four-person crew in the first arriving company’s ability to safely complete the necessary tasks in fighting a two-story structure fire.

This increase helps improve fire victims’ survivability and reduces assumed property damage. When calculated to all types of building fires, including high-rise buildings, a 58 percent increase in overall effectiveness was found.

In addition to increasing a crew’s overall effectiveness, the National Fire Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Fire Protection requires a minimum of four firefighters to be assembled before interior structural firefighting efforts can begin while the fire is in the various stages of development.

While the code does have a few exemptions that are normally not applicable to the fires LTFR responded to in 2012, a fire department that is found to have violated these laws and regulations can face large fines, lawsuits and in some rare cases criminal charges. A full IAFF study may be found by visiting ltfr.org.

Simultaneous calls

One of the growing challenges Lake Travis Fire Rescue faces in providing services is the amount of simultaneous calls that occur in the Lake Travis community requiring some form of emergent response.

Based on the road network and traffic dynamics, it makes getting to calls for help in a reasonable time difficult. If you happened to be traveling on RM 620 between FM 2222 and Texas 71 on Feb. 21 between 4:30-6 p.m., you were one of the many thousands of folks that experienced major traffic delays in both the north and south bound lanes of RM 620. That was a result of simultaneous incidents; in this case – traffic collisions. This is becoming more and more common. In 2012, LTFR units were assigned to multiple incidents almost 26 percent of the time on average.

In addition to the increased staffing models, LTFR is working in partnership with Travis County on a program of assigning smaller units to assist the other units and shoulder the demands of the medically related incidents.

The small units would be assigned during peak demands and staffed with EMTs and paramedics to cover some of the medically related incidents currently run by a larger unit that is staffed with cross trained firefighter/paramedics. Austin/Travis County EMS would still provide the EMS transport unit.

In addition to staffing increases and more medical units, LTFR has enhanced its Automatic Aid Agreements with surrounding fire agencies.

By completely erasing the imaginary boundaries the neighboring fire departments share, we collectively increased the number of units required to mitigate a number of true emergencies by sending the closest unit, regardless of city or county jurisdictional lines.

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