The Orleans Fire-Rescue Department kicked off its third Citizens Fire Academy last week and Cape Cod Today was there. Orleans Fire Chief Anthony Pike invited one of our reporters to embed in the class. This is the first in a series of weekly articles to chronicle this important community awareness program.
Chief Pike and Fire Inspector Greg Baker served as instructors for the first week's program.
Orleans firefighters and paramedics respond to approximately 3,000 calls a year - 80% of which are medical. The department also responds to some 1,000 calls for home assistance. Chief Pike walked attendees through a brief history of the department, the fire station and explained how fire operations have changed in Orleans over the past generation or so.
One of the firefighters present - a member of the regional tech rescue team - related a story of how regional resources were assembled to locate a missing 97-year-old woman in Yarmouth earlier in the week. This gave the chief an opportunity to explain how the regional mutual aid system works. When a fire or rescue call comes in to regional dispatch at the Sheriff's office in Bourne, many resources start rolling automatically. As those resources are called out, computers notify other ambulances and fire apparatus to start moving to cover the stations whose resources have been called to the emergency. The chief stressed that this is why it's important to call 911 and not your fire department's business line. As soon as you tell a 911 communicator that you need an ambulance, the dispatch process begins even while you continue to describe the emergent event to the communicator - an ambulance is already heading in your direction.
Because of the way fire apparatus can move around the Cape, Chief Pike once again stressed that you should call 911 with your emergency and not attempt to drive to the fire station. If there are active calls, there might not be an ambulance at the fire station and you might have driven further from available help, not to mention the hazard of driving while injured or with a serious ill passenger in the car.
Depending upon where you're located in Orleans and what is going on around the area, the closest ambulance to you might be one from East Harwich or Eastham. As soon as the 911 communicator hears your ambulance request, the ambulance nearest to you is automatically dispatched.
According to Chief Pike, the most common time for fire-rescue calls is 12 noon.
Today's fire departments are very data-driven. Everything is documented and then the data can be mined to help fire-rescue administrators to fine-tune how they manage their resources.
The chief also explained how the call-in system works when emergencies occur and all on-duty staff need additional firefighters.
The first fire academy session included a tour of the fire station. Attendees visited all areas - from the galley kitchen to the berthing areas to the apparatus spaces. Every nook and cranny of the fire station is filled with equipment - from spare cots to CPR mannequins, there's a surprise around every corner.
Chief Pike is especially proud of his rolling stock. He expounded to the group for some time on how the department helps save taxpayers' money with creative purchasing.
Future citizen fire academy classes include:
The Citizens Fire Academy class is well attended, with a good multi-generational mix of participants. The instructors and on-duty staff are enthusiastic and most welcoming. Your reporter looks forward to attending the next session.