EFR reduces turnout time

April 25, 2014

By Ari Cetron

New: April 25, 1:16 p.m.

Units from Eastside Fire & Rescue have some of the best turnout times in the area, according to Laura Philpot, Sammamish’s assistant city manager.

During an April 14 presentation to the City Council, Philpot gave an overview of fire services in Sammamish.

She showed a graphic highlighting the turnout times from various fire stations around King County, and showed that EFR stations are consistently among the top.

Sammamish Fire Chief Bud Backer noted that a few years ago that was not the case, but it became a priority for the department after prodding from the EFR board of directors.

Backer explained turnout time is how long it takes between the first notice of an incident and when the wheels on the truck start rolling. He said that’s what EFR likes to use as a metric, since the department can control all of the variables about what goes on in the station.

Response times, which can be affected by traffic, are a less effective measurement of how the department is doing, he said.

Backer said the department has a standard of units being on the move within 90 seconds, but many times they’ll beat that.

“Now we’ll see a lot of our crews getting under the 60-second mark,” Backer said.

Backer also explained EFR may change its governance model, but it’s nothing residents are likely to notice.

EFR is a legal agreement between Sammamish, Issaquah, North Bend and fire districts 10 and 38. Legally, however, it’s not an entity, so EFR cannot officially own property or have employees. Property – everything from fire stations to paper clips – is owned by each of the various partners.

All of the firefighters, however, are officially employed by Fire District 10.

Backer said under this model, after the EFR board makes a decision, Fire District 10 must respond in kind. In theory, District 10 could override some decisions made by the EFR board, although it has never done so.

In addition to that unusual bit of extra power, it forces district employees to make presentations twice, once to the EFR board and again to District 10.

Backer said staff members are working toward creating a nonprofit entity which would have the legal standing to have employees and, in some cases, own property. The change would essentially be on paper only and would not impact other aspects of the consortium.

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