More sirens does not mean more emergencies in the valley

Policy shifts sends everyone to initial scene

By Mark Reaman

Summer is always a busy time for the local emergency service personnel but based on the number of sirens and emergency vehicles seen zipping up and down the valley the last month or so, it appears it is busier than usual.

That isn’t necessarily the case, as a new Crested Butte Fire Protection District (CBFPD) policy has resulted in more vehicles and therefore more sirens and lights responding to every call.

“Since the change in structure with the CBFPD we have become one unified department,” explained CBFPD operations chief Rob Weisbaum. “Previously, we had an EMS division that would respond to all department calls and a fire division that would respond to fire-related calls only and certain medical calls. Now, as one combined department we have both EMS and fire responding to all paged 911 emergencies.”

That means, for example, that every time there is a call to the department about someone possibly having a heart attack, both an ambulance and a fire truck are dispatched.

A larger percentage of the department—with both the EMS and fire crews—is manned by paid personnel than in the past. Instead of having both an EMS and a fire chief, Weisbaum has taken over the entire district operation chief duties. Volunteers are also impacted with the policy change.

“We have moved to a shift-based system. So the volunteers sign up for a six, 12 or 24 hour shift based on their availability,” Weisbaum said. “We make every opportunity to release volunteers as quickly as possible so that they may return to work if needed. However, we don’t want them to miss out on valuable learning opportunities by having increased contacts. The system seems to be working very well and is overall well liked with the volunteers. As always, we greatly appreciate the employers that allow them to leave work when the call happens.

“This policy shift allows us to assure we have adequate crew on all calls without having to delay response by asking for additional personnel,” Weisbaum emphasized. “This has also allowed the firefighters to have more exposure to all our calls and gain valuable experience so that we can continue to provide a top-level service. If the fire crew is not needed, they are released quickly and placed back in service so that they may return to their daily or nightly activities.”

Weisbaum admitted the department has fielded calls about the intensity of response. “There are kinks to work out with the number of vehicles, but we are constantly refining the response system,” he said. “We appreciate the community’s understanding of the increased sirens and vehicles as we continue to grow and excel.”

As for the general busyness of summer, Weisbaum says 2018 has been on par with that of last summer.

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