Detroit – The city's fire brigade no longer uses lights and sirens in all its runs, prompting the fire-union to warn that the new policy could endanger lives.

But Detroit Fire Brigade says he has no plans to fall back on a strategy that offers discretion to dispatchers, firefighters and EMTs to warn those on the road to "easy", which means that they have their lights and sirens can turn off to arrive safely.

Detroit Fire Commissioner Eric Jones told The Detroit News Monday that ignoring traffic lights and speed limits by activating lights and sirens for every single run – even when it is not urgent – is unnecessarily dangerous.

The policy, which began last month and applies to all firefighters and those who drive firefighting vehicles, classifies runs with two codes: one for upcoming runs and the other for non-life threatening calls.

Previously, crews responded to all calls with light and sirens. The EMS of the city has been sending printed code for years. But the new policy now adds the firefighters to the same system, Jones said.

In 2017, EMS responded to 56,604 Series 1 runs and 49,289 Code 2 runs, Jones said. According to city records, the fire brigade reacted to 21,356 documented incidents in 2017; they ranged from building fires to gas leaks and no incident was found on arrival.

But the president of the Detroit Fire Fighter Association, Mike Nevin, said that the policy for incident responses leaves too much room for error and can ensure that firefighters are not prepared to face the most critical cases of the city.

Nevin appeared Monday for a subcommission session of the city council to give an overview of the new protocol he demanded to "go away".

"The firefighters and doctors in the field know that there is no crystal ball at the head office and that something that may not turn up on the phone can turn up," Nevin told the councilors during the standing committees for public health and safety. "What they are doing right now, I will not just let go."

Jones said the idea was first raised by a Detroit firefighter who had drafted a thesis about incidents. The department then evaluated the proposal, which according to him is based on some practices used in other parts of the country, and decided that it was the right step for the department.

"My job as Fire Brigade of Detroit is to ensure that we protect property and save lives, we can not do that if we use lights and sirens every time we run." It is foolish and someone will be killed, "he said." The policy is tight and it is good, and it is logical and we will save the lives of firefighters and civilians and thereby reduce accidents. "

According to the policy, response calls according to Code 1 require light and sirens and cover urgent or life-threatening emergency situations. This code applies to structural and automotive fires, large grass fires with a threat of exposure, dumpster fires, fires in a structure and mutual assistance demand.

Response interviews with code 2 concern requests that require "immediate attention", but it has been established that lights and sirens are not required or that the "go-easy" directive has been invoked by the first arriving companies. The code applies to smoke outside a structure, odor or carbon monoxide inside a structure without signs of disease, downward wires without fire and other calls without life threat or disease, according to the policy.

Code 3's answer applies to Detroit EMS and is issued for non-life-threatening emergency calls. In those cases, units must comply with all state and local traffic laws, policy notes & # 39; s.

Jones said the shift did not affect the average medical response times – which are about eight minutes – because the teams still respond to Code 1 on building fires and life-threatening medical runs, which the department is measuring.

"It is time to move this department to the 21st century, this is happening all over the country," Jones said, noting that several large cities have a similar policy. "It was the right thing to do, and I fully and sincerely support it."

Arizona comparison

In Phoenix, since 2004 the fire department has used a similar safety instruction for the engine, ladder, ladder ladders and rescue vehicles. Captain Kenny Overton of the Phoenix Fire Department said the main goal was to keep everyone safe when responding to emergencies. calls.

When the coordinator makes an emergency call, he or she will divide the call into categories, says Overton. Service calls receive Code 2 with lower priority, while more serious calls, such as a house fire, are categorized as Code 3.

"When we have an emergency to respond to, we want to respond quickly," said Overton. "We also need to work in a safe way so that we do not become part of the emergency situation.

"For example, just because a call is being sent, code 3 does not mean we can drive 100 miles per hour, and if there is an emergency response, the maximum is 10 above the speed limit."

Opposing views

Nevin argued during the Detroit council session on Monday that the move is designed to manipulate "data" it looks as if the city is responding to fewer emergency race projects and said the union was never consulted before the policy was put in place.

"They are slicing and dicing reactions, how many reactions and how we react," he said. "As a 32-year veteran from the city of Detroit, I will not allow this to happen, I do not care who insults it."

The trade union has a slogan that says "you can count on us", Nevin told the council. But the new policy sends a message to the public that "when seconds count, we are minutes away," he said.

What they ask us to do is turn off the light and the sirens, we can just turn off the lights and put Good Humor bubbles on the rig, & # 39; he said. "They put us in this box Code 2, so they can show that runs go down."

Jones refuted that Nevin's statement is "foolish" and has no reason. Jones added that he was offered to meet the union to discuss any concerns they may have with the run classifications, but he is not willing to delete it.

"It (the response policy) does not do anything about the statistics and data we collect," Jones said.

Nevin pointed to several incidents in which the codes disappeared in one way, but should have been classified differently. He shared the audio with The Detroit News and also said he played it for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

Several calls that have been sent as Code 2 in the last days contain a person who is about to jump from a viaduct, cuts off cables or is on fire and sets a transformer on fire. There was also a call for fire alarm from the MGM Grand Detroit, according to the audio.

"This is the stupid thing I've ever heard in my life," Nevin said about the policy. "This is overly stupid."

Jones acknowledged Monday that there have been a few misses, but none has led to injuries and "every day we get better."

"They can pull runs out … and say" this should have been and that should have been. "I can extract 1,000 that have responded well without an accident," he said. "There will be mistakes, but we will not unnecessarily kill someone because we have become light and bulls, when that was not necessary."

Mayor praises up close

Duggan's spokesperson, John Roach, said in an e-mail that the new policy was imposed as a decision at department level.

The mayor, he said, "is going to look at this topic very closely and will meet with Commissioner Jones and Mike Nevin later this week to discuss it."

Council member Janee Ayers, vice-chairman of the board committee, asked the fire brigade during the Monday session. Among them, she inquired about the liability risk of the city in the implementation of the protocol and the consequences of the wrong mapping of non-emergency situations.

In a reaction that was submitted later on Monday, Jones wrote the responsibility "lies in not implementing such a policy."

Jones noted that 94 crashes with 10 employees in 2015 with $ 766,504 in related vehicle and personnel costs. In 2016 there were 58 accidents with 11 employees and $ 772,710 in corresponding costs. The totals, he noted, do not take into account legal costs.

Ayers also asked Jones to indicate how the new "non-emerging management" differs from a controversial "go-easy" policy that existed in the nineties of the last century.

The old policy, he said, was meant to let respondents determine whether lights and sirens were needed after they arrived on the scene, while the new policy strives to have that conversation earlier.

"In other words, the new policy, based on encrypting calls, dictates that all calls are sent either lights and sirens for code 1 responses, and no lights and sirens for code 2 responses," Jones wrote.

"It is more effective and sensible to send employees properly from the first shipment. The firefighters still have the freedom to upgrade to a light and siren response, or to downgrade to a" easy " ; -reaction without lights and sirens as information develops from the scene. "

Ayers said she spoke to firefighters and many are not for a change. The board's subcommittee will discuss the issue next week.

"Whenever a citizen calls 911, it's of the utmost importance to them," she said. "What I do not want is that our first responders find themselves in a situation where they do not get light, no sirens on a scene that citizens have called them for, and it looks like there is no cause for concern. the right way. "

cferretti@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Candice Williams has contributed.

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