Part III – The Calls Keep Coming
By John Anderson
This past Monday, the following was posted on the Auburnmassfire Facebook page: “Group 1 ended the shift at 0800 hrs. this morning with 22 calls for the shift.” Sundays were slow days in Auburn for many years, but not any more.
While there are many reasons for the call volume increase over the past 20 years, a few are easy to quantify. Chief Coleman credits some of the increase to how the town has changed. “There have been 923 new buildings erected in the town since 1990” Coleman said. “Just look at Southbridge St. alone. If you really think about it, most of those businesses were not there 20 years ago. The look of Southbridge St. has dramatically changed, and the amount of people visiting town has changed with it.” The town sees a traffic count of over 500,000 vehicles per day. 50,000 of that is commercial truck traffic alone. From the chain restaurants, to the 5 hotels, to the new box stores and an expanded mall, Auburn’s commercial profile is different.
Of those new buildings, three house substantial numbers of elderly residents who require assistance with their daily lives: The Life Care Center, 1993; The Woods at Eddy Pond, 1997; and The Lodge at Eddy Pond, 1998. Combined, these facilities generated 324 calls in 2015, nearly one a day. Although the population of Auburn has changed little since 1990, this increase in seniors generates more calls.
Early medical intervention has also driven the number of EMS responses. People have been taught to call 911 in case of an
emergency, and this is good. Called generational learning, citizens are better educated about 911, smoke detectors, CPR, and fire safety. It is much better for firefighters to arrive and determine there is no emergency then to come after a disaster has occurred. If one listens to the medical calls being dispatched in Auburn, some seem unnecessary, but for a resident with no medical training, calling 911 is the right thing to do. “Good Intent” calls are never discouraged.
Early detection, both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, adds to the firefighters’ workload as well. CO detectors were very unreliable 20 years ago, but they have improved and are now required in residences. Battery powered smoke detectors are still being replaced by hard wired devices with a battery backup as new construction and renovations drive their installation. When a detector goes into alarm, all interconnected devices are activated. Whether it’s at the mall or a single-family home, finding the cause or faulty detector can take the entire crew on the fire truck.
The Chief said, “Early detection is putting us on scene, and we’re putting the fires out.” AFRD arrives at the scene of an emergency within 4-5 minutes 90% of the time.
Our final installment will look at sustaining the first class service that the Auburn Fire Rescue Department provides.