Fire chief gives update on building studies

The Dunkirk Fire Department’s existing buildings will be evaluated once the weather breaks.

Fire Chief Keith Ahl-strom gave an update on the plans at a recent meeting of the Common Council’s Public Safety Committee.

Pacheco Ross Archi-tects, PC was approved by the council in January to perform a study on the three existing buildings owned by the department. According to Ahlstrom, representatives from the company will be here in early April and stay for about three days. They will look at the structure, technology and mechanics of each building.

“They want to make sure that when they come down, number one, that snow is gone so they have access to … around the buildings so they can take a look structurally. Also, the roofs; they want to make sure all the snow is off,” Ahlstrom said.

All the information and reporting is expected to be compiled by September, Ahlstrom said. The company will look at what is needed to bring all buildings up to code and what the fire department’s needs are. A determination of whether the department should keep all three buildings will also be part of the report, Ahlstrom said.

“We’re looking forward to it. Pacheco Ross is a company who deals with the fire service. That’s all that they do. They’re very familiar with the needs of the fire service … I think the city has made a very good choice,” he said.

Ahlstrom also gave an update on private billing final figures for last year. The number of medical transports from 2012 to 2013 decreased by 46 in the city. Ahlstrom said the decrease can be attributed to fewer people in Dunkirk and less actually being transported to the emergency room. While transports have decreased, the number of calls the department is receiving is increasing.

For revenues, the department saw $152,000 in 2012 and $118,00 in 2013. Ahlstrom said the average reimbursement rate was $251 in 2012 and $210 in 2013. Some of the 2011 billing went out late and was reported in 2012, causing those amounts to be slightly skewed, according to Ahlstrom. He also noted if a city resident does not have insurance, they do not pay for transportation.

Councilwoman Stacy Szukala asked Ahlstrom if the department would transfer to an advanced life-saving system from a basic life-saving system. ALS, compared to BLS, uses IVs and prescriptions administered to the patient en route to the hospital. Ahlstrom said in the next 10 to 15 years, ALS will become the standard of service, compared to BLS.

“I think it’s something the city should be looking at,” Ahlstrom said.

Ahlstrom added if the department were to look at going to the ALS system, the city would have to negotiate union contracts to see which firefighters would receive the additional training to be ALS-certified. Szukala said she would have more comfort knowing firefighters are trained in ALS.

” … The level of service from our guys is basic care to get you to the hospital. There’s nothing else they can do for you in that situation, except get you to the hospital. … Knowing I can call and always have someone available to help me when I need that help is a very comforting situation,” Szukala said.

Ahlstrom said he will have more information at a future committee meeting in regard to whether the department will begin discussions on ALS training.

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