Sept. 24, 2o17 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
While leaders from the Northville and Plymouth communities celebrated the cooperative effort and new intergovernmental agreement that will open the Lake Pointe Fire Station this month, seasoned firefighters and informed sources say the move will do little in reality to improve public safety in Plymouth Township.
After receiving approval last month, fire chiefs from both townships finalized move-in plans at the station and commenced hiring to implement the joint occupancy agreement that will open the old station building located on Wilcox Road. The Plymouth Township station has been closed since 2012. It was closed by the previous administration, along with a reduction in fire department staffing of 50 percent. The moves were criticized publicly by residents and described by many as politically motivated and a retaliatory move. The Lake Pointe Fire Station serves the largest and most heavily populated subdivision in the township.
This new plan calls for each township to have two emergency vehicles and two fire- fighters on duty at the station to respond to emergencies in both communities. The firefighters will also maintain the current mutual aid protocols. In reality, firefighters from the Plymouth and Northville departments will share the building.
Professional fire department statistics show insufficient staffing levels place the public and firefighters at risk by increasing response times and reducing firefighter’s ability to rescue, fight fires and save lives.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets national standards for fire department public safety and staffing. In 2016 the NFPA standard on fire department deployment was revised to reflect the appropriate response staffing levels spelling out the absolute minimum requirement for each fire engine. This staffing is referred to by firefighters as a “company” or “squad,” and requires they be staffed with a minimum of four on-duty members.
A landmark 2010 National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) study, funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Assistance to Firefighters grant program, states the size of fire fighting crews has a substantial effect on the ability of a fire department to protect lives and property in residential fires. A basic safety requirement is that no firefighters may enter a burning building unless four firefighters are “on-scene,” the so-called “two- in, two-out” rule.
Professional firefighters say the criticism of the new plan is justified when the NFPA minimum of four firefighters is frequently not met, as is the case in Plymouth Township. Review shows many Plymouth emergency runs have just two or three firefighters on board ambulance rigs or fire engines, the total shift manpower requirement to keep open the respective fire stations.
Firefighters say it’s often impossible to meet that standard in Plymouth Township with a total of 21 firefighters as opposed to other neighboring departments. Northville Township, relatively the same size in population and area, has a 28-man department. Neighboring Livonia at the other end of the spectrum operates five fire stations and has 83 firefighters. Their minimum daily staffing is 21 firefighters with four firefighter paramedics at each station at any given time.
Three new Plymouth Township firefighter/paramedics were officially sworn in Sept. 11 at Plymouth Township Hall. Adam Guinn, Anthony Schoennherr and Tyler Caswell joined the department.
Even with the three new firefighters, according to Plymouth Township Fire Chief Dan Phillips, it will be necessary to close the Lake Pointe Station a minimum of 30 to 40 days in the course of one year because of insufficient manpower when vacations, time-off and sick days are factored into available staffing. The three new firefighters will bring the total shift staffing in Plymouth Township to six firefighters.
Township Trustee Jack Dempsey, who promised the re-opening of Station 2 and public safety during his campaign last year, said he was pleased to attend the swearing in ceremony Sept. 11, but still had some concerns about adequate staffing.
“Swearing in the new firefighters was very meaningful and a powerful reminder there is still more to do to achieve the appropriate level of public safety here in the township,” Dempsey said.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony and celebration is scheduled for 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 29, at the Wilcox Road station. The ceremony is open to the public and township officials, fire chiefs and firefighters from both townships are expected to attend.
Photos © Don Howard / Associated Newspapers