05/18/11 73 W, 1 I - + 2 - 3 Red Car, Green Car

Durham Highway firefighter directs traffic in the 6700 block of Ebenezer Church Road, where a tree decided that it didn't like a power line. This one brought a trifecta of dispatched departments: Durham Highway, Western Wake, and Raleigh. Yours Truly raced to the scene, eager to provide comprehensive coverage of exciting but lesser-known duties of the modern firefighter. No call is too small for Camera Guy. Click to enlarge:

3 engines for a tree on some power lines. Really? Please tell us that the first due engine cancelled the other 2 once they got there.
Mike - 05/19/11 - 09:34

Original dispatch was WWE191, RFE17, DHR5.

It’s one of those unique areas where it’s WW’s response area, DH’s Insurance area and RF’s closest unit area. And from the looks of the pictures and the report DH’s Engine was first on scene, assessed the situation and released the WW and RF units.
shevais - 05/19/11 - 10:57

After looking at the pictures I have a few questions for everyone:
Do you respond routine or emergency traffic for calls of this nature?
How do you position your apparatus at incidents involving power lines?

In my opinion, an incident of this type does not warrant an emergency response. I think that you should park a little farther away than the apparatus in the picture. Why did DH respond because it was their insurance area? Were they dispatched or did they “jump” it? Seems like a gigantic waste of my tax money in general. If it is WW’s response area then they should respond, as insurance rating is not effected by “trees down on a power line” calls.
D. Advocate - 05/19/11 - 13:39

@ D.Advocate… some of your answers have been already given. The dispatch was WWE191, RFE17, DHR5. The only reason DH was dispatched is because WWR295 is out of service. The response to an FEWD call in WW’s response area is 1-E, 1-R. In this area you also get 1-AA (RFE17). I’m sure DHE4 added to the call seeing as they may have been closer and able to respond quicker. And yes, I do as our policy states, respond emergency traffic to this type of incident. For nothing else but to be able to identify the potential hazard to the motoring or cycling citizens and make them aware of the problem and try to prevent further issues with the hazard. I cannot attest to the parking of the driver in the picture. They parked where they felt the need to park. But yes, I try to park a bit further out from the down wires if possible.

As for it being a gigantic waste of “your” tax dollars, all it cost was the fuel to put these trucks on the road, and I’m sure your part of that fuel cost was a significantly small portion of your $.08/$100 fire tax on the value of your property.
shevais - 05/19/11 - 14:18

But does a tree on power line qualify as a “true emergency” in the courts eyes. Say you went through a stoplight running hot to this and injured someone what would be the courts response to this as a “true emergency”.
Another D. Advocate - 05/19/11 - 15:57

@Another Advocate, as long as the apparatus driver could prove that they were driving according to the law and SOP I doubt that a scenario like the one you describe would even make it to court. However, I can definitely see a department having to explain to a jury why they were sitting in traffic when a civilian injured themselves at a scene that had already been reported to the authorities.
Eric - 05/19/11 - 16:41

If that is the case then do you run all calls hot. Like a CO alarm is it a hot or cold response, or a EMS call when information relayed to you by EMD lets you know it is not life threating and that the few minutes of safe response cold will not make any difference in the outcome of the call. i know we can “what if” this all day long going back and forth. I think trees down or lines down are not warranted to be hot responses.
Another D. Advocate - 05/19/11 - 19:57

I think that there can certainly be a fair debate about what should be considered an “emergency”; in my opinion, any incident that could endanger life is an emergency until an authority arrives on scene and confirms that it is not. To use your example, I do think that a CO alarm in a residence (especially at night) is an emergency. Also, I think that running “hot” doesn’t necessarily mean that a response is unsafe. That distracted driver who drives through an intersection and hits the big red truck with flashing lights and loud sirens could just as easily drive through a red light into moving traffic.
Eric - 05/19/11 - 20:42

Hot responses may cause erratic responses from other vehicles whether they hit another vehicle, drive off the road or simply slam on the brakes and get rear ended by someone else. For that reason alone I would say hot responses equate to LESS safe responses, I wouldn’t necessarily say unsafe. Risk assessment can be very subjective but I think its fair to say that hot responses are less safe than cold responses.
Joey - 05/19/11 - 20:54

Since I was on the call maybe I can provide some insight. What Shevais said about our SOP at WW is correct, and the response area vs. district is also correct. All 3 departments responded emergency traffic. We met E-17 at Duraleigh and Ebenezer Church and yielded the R.O.W. to them, all 3 departments arrived simultaneously (DHFD beat us all by about 20 seconds.) DHFD also took the call and advised us on 191 and E-17 to clear (thanks guys!). As for hot/cold responses; we are all learning more through research, statistics, and near-misses now than ever before about the dangers associated with responding to and returning from calls- best practice is to stay alert, wear the belt, and exercise due regard. From what I understand there is consideration here in WC for a Fire-EMD style dispatch where the 911 call-taker can ask key questions to get the appropriate info that will ultimatley help determine if a hot response is warranted (ECC jump in at ANY time). Ultimatley it’s up to “the powers that be” in our agencies to determine what we run hot and cold to, and whatever guideline or policy they implement we will follow… as we at WWFR did on this call. As for officer discretion there is no doubt in my mind that my Chief, and others I know in this county for that matter, would support the 2nd or 3rd in truck on a lower priority call such as this one “cutting back routine” once another unit has arrived on scene- just advise that unit that you’re cutting back.

No doubt a tree down or wires down is often viewed as low priority, but back to Shevais’ consideration for the pedestrian, child playing, or bicyclist who may come into contact with the wire. Or the car that rounds the bend on this very curvy road and strikes the down tree, and now we have the potential for a P.I. wreck- been on a few of those calls too. We dont know what we are going to, so get someone there to assess and restrict access to the scene. For those of you who want to talk risk assessment consider those scenarios, and given the fact that you dont know if the wire is down and arcing in a populated area, or the tree is blocking the road and causing an mvc hazard- can you really make a picture-perfect and risk-free descision? NO. So for now, Im gonna keep running hot if I’m the only one dispatched, and cut back if im the 2nd or 3rd in once the first due has arrived…until my bosses tell me to do otherwise.
J.Boggs - 05/19/11 - 22:03

I can’t believe some of you are arguing about this. Ask your self if this call constitutes an emergency if one of the power lines snap with the weight and splits your little kid or wife in two. Like it has been said, first in (PD or FIRE) can cut the other trucks back.
your kid - 05/20/11 - 00:59

Very well put Shev and Jason. Sounds like the 2 advocates are the same 2 that would be pissed for having to pull over to let a fire truck pass to go to their own house burning with their kids trapped inside. Maybe the same ones that would complain about the weather being to cold and then complaining about how hot it is.

JoCo already dispatches calls as a Code 1 (non-emergency) or Code 3 (Haul @$$). Its ultimately left up to the Departments officers on responding code 1 or code 3 but atleast dispatch puts that information out there for us.

The way I look at this is, if someone felt the need to call 911 for an emergency situation then there must be an emergency. Get there, size it up, and handle business!
TTaylor - 05/20/11 - 11:36

It really is darn near impossible to have a rational discussion with some of you people. The two Devil’s advocates are simply saying that, in their opinion, a call for lines down does not justify an emergency response. Somehow it has been twisted by a couple of you to mean that they would not want a hot response if someone were struck by a telephone pole and “split in two” and that they are the same kind of people who would be upset by a speeding truck traveling to their own house. Perhaps this is why public safety has an image problem in many places, instead of having a discussion (which I will say a couple people here TRIED to do) it often results in over generalizations and insults to people who simply wonder if flying down the road with lights and sirens is always necessary.

I’d have to disagree with that if someone calls 911 there must be an emergency. EMS has run the alpha call system for a while and it has prevented emergency responses to many calls types that simply don’t need them. Someone called 911 for a lift assist, does that mean it should be a hot response until the first unit arrives? Same thing applies with the FD, if the caller says there are lines down but no vehicles or people involved, do think it is necessary to have a emergency response every time that happens?

Personally, I’m not pissed when I have to pull over for a firetruck going emergency traffic, I’d give them the benefit of the doubt they are going to a true emergency. I do however have a problem with public safety personnel driving like crazy people when they aren’t running calls. Like the Western Wake people (I think it was the rescue, it was going so fast I didn’t want to catch up and just saw the rear) I saw leaving Bojangles on East Chatham last week going 15 over and tailgating.
Joey - 05/20/11 - 14:27

The way I look at it is, if they were the Chief or whomever then they can make the decision. Until then they need to worry about their job and not ours.
911 - 05/20/11 - 15:40

“Personally, Im not pissed when I have to pull over for a firetruck going emergency traffic, Id give them the benefit of the doubt they are going to a true emergency.”
Thats great, then we probably dont have to worry about you picking up a downed power line or crashing your car into a tree thats down in the roadway. Its those other people who we worry about. With that being said, a quicker response to remove a hazard or to protect the folks from such hazard would justify a hot response.

When folks get to talking about wasted tax dollars, thats where it pisses me off. For 1 we dont get paid enough to do what we do, none of us are in it for the money but it would be nice not to work 2 or more jobs to support our families. If the comment wouldve been left out, then i probably wouldve never jumped in.

As for the “speeding tailgater” you shouldve flipped on your blue lights and issued a citizens citation. Emergency Service Personel arent perfect, we all make mistakes. If everyone was perfect the need for us wouldnt exist. Just keep that in mind the next time you are making a right hand turn and oncoming traffic forgets to use their blinker and you curse them as you look down and realize your blinker isnt on either!
TTaylor - 05/20/11 - 16:07

Joey, I invite you to call the fire chief of Western Wake and give a time and date of when and where you saw this action and the appropriate actions will be taken I can promise that.

Or better yet send me an email and I will see that it gets handled. That is not acceptable by our organizational standards and will be handled.
shevais (Email) - 05/20/11 - 18:18

One more thing… I’m all for coding or categorizing calls, but let’s face the fact that in Wake County we are often “locutioned and forgot about.” We get a nature of the call and an address. Very rarely do we get additional information, or we get information that only comes out on the rip-n-run but not over the alpha pagers, as happened to a call I was on last week. Typically in this system we have to have a wait and see mentality with calls, where we have to wait until we get there and see what we have/need. I am ALL for additional information given on calls to allow the company officers to make good decisions on how to respond to calls. It’s one of the downsides of the way our system operates, and the downfall of staffing shortages in our very busy comms center.
shevais - 05/20/11 - 18:23

@Shev- I know that you guys seldom get any updates, while we get them sometimes on the MDT. I usually try to update everyone, although now in Apex they have MDTs and are getting the same stuff we are. The sad part is that I have been called down a couple of times for ‘excess radio traffic’. No matter, I’ll do it anyway. I would rather, though, that RW911 go back and provide verbal updates. I know they are busy, but a lot of times we are driving emergency traffic and trying to look out for the actions of the motoring public, and having to hit the update button to get the updated info takes our eyes off of traffic. Sure, we can slow down (I am all for that) but people just plain out do stupid stuff when sirens come around. And there are the times that the MDT will update multiple times with the same info. Oh well, it is what it is. I will try and remember to start updating you guys outside of Apex when I am running with you, since after all, information is power!
DJ - 05/20/11 - 19:03

Joey you are a Mutt.
Concerned Brother - 05/20/11 - 21:14

To the comment regarding a “fire emd” – well it is out there. It’s actually called EFD and RWECC has been receiving the training over the last few weeks. EFD is a great protocol system and prompts the telecommunicator to ask questions that sometimes they may not think about (Placard #, direction the spill/hazmat is flowing, how many stories in a structure, etc). We have used EFD for a number of years in Johnston County and the policy is to relay ALL pertinent information on the initial dispatch (which would be problematic for locution.) On initial dispatch we advise, “caller reporting oven fire, already extinguished” or “smell of smoke in the upstairs bedroom,” etc. Anytime new or updated information is received it is also to go out over the air (even though they may have an MDT) so that all responders hear the updates. Alpha calls are dispatched as cold resopnses, but based on the additional information provided, the company/chief officer has the right to alter the response level of their agency/company.
JoCo911 - 05/21/11 - 00:03

The problem is that Fire Departments can’t get over the “that was our district” mentality. If Engine 17 is closest, let them have the run. Who cares. I know many of the departments in Wake Co., including some of the listed in this article are full out that mentality. Its 2011. Get over yourselves.
Old Timer - 05/21/11 - 10:58

Wait a minute, Old Timer. In the case described above, where closest unit meets insurance district meets response district, I am pretty sure there are policy requirements that compel the units to continue their response. With policies derived from legal requirements that the department responds, no?

Or do dispatched units/departments have way more leeway to decline or let the other dispatched departments handle?
Legeros - 05/21/11 - 11:40

Insurance ratings only apply to Structural Responses. There are not tax districts, other than the City and County. Thus, the citzen will receive the service they pay tax for. I feel it is a waste of resources.
Old Timer - 05/21/11 - 13:22

For all those with legal concerns – try to find the law. I’m guessing that you won’t be able to, because it probably doesn’t exist. Unless you find a statute that says otherwise, the legal standard is the negligence standard – what would a reasonable person with the same or similar training do in similar circumstances? A reasonable person might conclude that an event that ordinarily gets a single unit response only needs a single unit response, no matter which side of a man-made line the incident fell upon.
SkipK - 05/21/11 - 14:18

@Old Timer… nobody ever said that anybody responded because it was ‘their’ ISO district. DHR5 was dispatched because it was the next closest Rescue truck, due to WW’s Rescue being out of service. As for the Auto AId/Closest Unit, being RFE17, it works both ways, with the county going into the city and the city going into the county. CAD cannot differentiate between a FEWD or a FCODE or a FHOUSE when dealing with an AA unit. So you get one on every call. When the scene has been evaluated usually that AA unit can be cleared and return to their primary area of response. Ie RFE17 returning to service (as WWE191 did as well) and going back to serve the citizens of the City. Just as when the county unit goes into the city, the municipality has a legal obligation to provide the service, which is why a county unit cannot cancel a city unit to a call within the city. That city unit can cut back, proceed and take the report.

Ultimately the closest unit philosophy has been put into place to provide the highest level of customer service to the citizens, regardless of where they might live. You get the closest resource to handle your issue, and the jurisdiction is sorted out later. Look at some history of calls in this county and you’ll see times where this was not in place and was to the detriment of the customer. This is honestly a great stride that has been made in this county with agencies working together more seamlessly than has ever taken place. I can promise you that WW is not, nor ever has been of the “that was ours” mentality. We respond to all areas we are dispatched to, and which we can be of immediate assistance. Which in CAD terms means a calculated arrival time of 30 seconds or more ahead of the first due unit whose jurisdiction the call is in.
shevais - 05/21/11 - 17:13

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