The City and Borough of Juneau is constantly looking at and evaluating its abilities to provide an appropriate level of service to the community, and sometimes that means adjusting. Due to a spike in demand for emergency services, Capital City Fire/Rescue recently underwent an operational review with an outside consultant to determine how CCFR can best meet public safety needs. While many of the consultant’s recommendations are still being evaluated, CBJ is moving forward with implementing one – hire additional crew for an extra ambulance.
The demand for CCFR services has increased close to 50 percent over the past eight years. In 2010, CCFR answered nearly 3,500 unique calls for service; in 2017, that number was more than 5,000. While the surge in emergency calls is happening nationwide, CCFR contends with challenges unique to Juneau – isolation, lack of mutual aid from other fire departments and dynamic geography.
Consultants with Missouri-based Fitch & Associates came to Juneau earlier this year and conducted a thorough evaluation of CCFR by looking at data, GIS response information, interviewing firefighters and administration, among other things. Its report and list of recommendations were presented to the Assembly during its July 11 Committee of the Whole Work Session. The overarching take away is that with some growth in the ranks – both career and volunteer – CBJ can make a difference in getting emergency services to citizens faster.
Working toward that goal, CCFR plans to add more employees to staff an existing additional ambulance. Aside from this immediate change, CCFR and CBJ staff will identify the most appropriate recommendations from the report in the coming weeks and determine what time frame and resources are applicable to implementation. Any recommendations involving facilities or funding will go to the Assembly for consideration. In order for changes concerning department structure operations to be successful, career and volunteer members will need time to be part of the process on how best to move forward.
As always, the community can be part of the solution as well. Please do not abuse the 911 system. Dial 911 only for an emergency. Examples of an emergency include any serious medical problem (chest pain, seizure, bleeding), any type of fire (business, car, building), or any life-threatening situation (fights, person with weapons, etc.). Examples of non-emergent situations include getting shampoo in your eye, a spider bite, feeling sick for a week and wanting to go to the hospital. While most people understand these are not emergencies, these are examples of actual 911 calls. At least 20 percent of the calls CCFR receives are for non-emergent situations. For non-emergencies, community members should look to other resources for a transport, like Capital Transit, Care-A-Van, or a taxicab.
Also, CCFR is currently looking for dedicated, hardworking individuals with all types of skills, abilities and backgrounds to be volunteer staff. Volunteers can be firefighters or EMS personnel, or both, and all training and equipment is provided. The Douglas, Auke Bay and Lynn Canal fire stations are volunteer stations that CCFR struggles to keep properly staffed. Volunteers must be a minimum age of 18 years old and possess a valid Alaska Driver’s License. CCFR also offers a Cadet Program for those under 18. If you’re interested in volunteering or have any questions, contact Assistant Chief Tod Chambers at 586-0918 or Tod.Chambers@juneau.org.