While sitting and watching the Winter Classic with the snow pleasantly falling outside, I was skimming through the Ann Arbor Observer. There is a very informative article by James Leonard that explains the issues with the Ann Arbor Fire Department in a detailed way that I have not seen before. It explains the Fire Chief’s proposal for revamping Ann Arbor’s Fire Department, how some City Councilmembers were against the plan, and how the public does not necessarily want change.
The article is titled:
Read this article to learn about the ongoing controversy regarding staffing and operating the city owned fire stations. Below is my summary of the issues discussed in this article.
Another fire chief for the City of Ann Arbor is resigning. The article goes into the details about how little power the city administrator and the fire chief actually have; the union contract holds the control over changes to the fire department.
The article also refers to the preconception that the public holds regarding safety. Chief Hubbard proposed to close a couple of stations to so that we can have the correct number of fire fighters (4) at a fire within 5 minutes according to the NFPA Standard 1710. The public believes that more fire stations make them safer and skim over the facts about number of fireman within a specific time frame arriving at a fire. There was a big uproar in the public due to the misunderstanding.
The Chief’s proposal was not well received by some councilmembers either. CMs Lumm aand Eaton are specifically named in the article as saying that they want more firefighters hired to meet the goal rather than closing fire stations.
Problem is that Lumm’s and Eaton’s solution ( and I believe that Kailasapathy, Anglin, Kunselman, and Peterson also agree with this [ The Petulant Six2]) requires the city to hire 26 additional firefighters at a cost of $16 million.1 $16 million dollars??? Really?
If the Chief’s plan will get us to the same result as spending $16 million dollars, then I don’t know why it was thrown away so easily. I understand that some in the public did not understand the data, but the council should have realized the value of the Chief’s plan.
Chief Hubbard said in the article,
“If councilmembers were serious about meeting NFPA Standard 1710, they would have endorsed his plan.”
What bothers me about this, is that we now have members of council (the Petulant Six2) who do not look at data or advice from experts. When they are presented with data they ignore and discredit the data without a clear reason why. We had seen this before during the attempt of the crosswalk ordinance repeal. When I read the observer article with everything spelled out in such a clear specific way, it is obvious that the better choice was the Chief’s plan. That is unless no one has a problem with using $16 million dollars to fix a problem that does not exist.
It is a cheap soundbite to say that you want to hire more firefighters to meet a specific standard (that it is not a legal standard) when running for office. But maybe, just maybe, the Petulant Six candidates should have followed that up with specifics like “‘if you vote for me I will hire 26 firefighters at a cost of 16 million dollars to hit a standard created by a group of firefighters.’
For background on the NFPA Standard 1710, CM Warpehowski gives a long detailed explanation about the history told to him by a retired firefighter, Doug Warsinski. I did not know this before and found it very informative. Take a look.
Another aspect of the article that I found interesting is Mayor Hieftje’s comment regarding Chief Hubbard’s proposal for changes in the number of fire stations,
“The plan was based on fighting fires, but most of what the fire department does is assist Huron Valley Ambulance.”
The mayor was pointing out that the Chief put forward a plan for firefighting and not for the additional services (medical, car accidents) that the fire department currently does. Although the plan will help the fire response statistics, there are other services to be considered that they public clearly said they wanted continued (medical) when they spoke at public meetings. If this is true that the public and the council are interested in having the fire department continue assistance in medical calls, then why doesn’t the city invest in paramedic equipment instead of sending large fire engines out on the medical calls? The chief states it perfectly in the article when he said, ” What’s the priority, fire or medical or both?”
IMO, the city should not just hire firefighters, they should hire paramedics, and upgrade equipment so that we optimize our fire services for the services we actually want.
Anyway, take a look at the article. My purpose is to not repeat the entire article here. I will let you read it for yourself. I just want to make you aware of the article.
omnes domum cedite
1 James Leonard, “Why Don’t chiefs stay? Chuck Hubbard and the secret history of a national standard”. Ann Arbor Observer, January 2014.
2 Petulant Six is made up the following councilmembers: Mike Anglin, Stephen Kunselman, Sumi Kailasapathy, Jane Lumm, Sally Peterson, and Jack Eaton. This descriptive term will be used when the issue they are opposing as a majority is of a non-partisan nature.