04/29/11 120 W - + 7 - 3 Reviewing the Storm Response - Unit Numbering

Open question about the severe weather of April 16, 2011. Tornadoes and thunderstorms ripped through Raleigh and Wake County. EMS units and fire units were running everywhere. But only one of the two were using a unified numbering system. Every Wake County EMS asset has a unique unit number. For the various fire departments, however, there were a number of Engines 1s and Engine 2s and Engines 3s operating on the radio channels. Might've sounded a little crazy from the armchair perspective, but did it make a difference in the field? And behind the dispatch console? We've beat this horse before from a theoretical perspective. How did it work in real life, two weeks ago?

I heard alot of radio traffic that I thought was supposed to be eliminated by our radio system. I thought that by having status buttons each unit wouldn’t have to tie up the system by calling “Apex Battalion 1 to Raleigh, Raleigh go ahead, Apex Battalion 1 is available”. I also noticed some IMO unneeded traffic such as calling in a tree down, I understand others may need to know if an entire road is blocked by numerous trees down but in a case like that day just get out and start cutting the tree, only tie up Raleigh if you need help.

Apex Batt CHief - 04/29/11 - 21:03

No problems in the field.If you are a town, do as you want is what I say.
JG - 04/29/11 - 21:09

No problems in the field, we adapt and overcome and make it work. We are fireman, thats what we do best. If BFE E1 has traffic, they say “BFE Engine 1 to Raleigh on dispatch 1.” (or as some would say “on the dispatch”) I do not ever notice an Engine 1 talking to another Engine 1. It is always “Morrisville Engine 1 to Holly Springs Engine 1 on Tac 13” or “Garner Engine 3 to Raleigh Engine 3.” Like JG says, If you are a municipality, do whatever you want. Hey JG, what about that the radio traffic…......”_____will be ready for service, on the dispatch.”
JW - 04/29/11 - 22:24

I respectfully disagree.

“If you are a town, do as you want is what I say.”

That’s very indicative of ego based decision making vs decision making that is based on what is best for the customer (and best for firefighters).

And in terms of “we adapt and overcome and make it work”, that is indicative that you have to adapt and overcome something that is broken to begin with.

Let me phrase my position another way: If you were designing a system today, from the start, would your end result look like what it does now? I somehow doubt it.

How many Battalion 1’s are in the county now?

With the exception of Cary (that’s another story), all fire units in the county operate on the same radio system. There are clearly duplicate unit identifiers. There is no way that makes a dispatcher’s job any easier.
harkey (Email) - 04/30/11 - 15:00

Since ours is a digital radio system, what sort of visual indicators are available to dispatchers? When they hear a transmission, can see shown on their screen “Raleigh Engine 1.” Or is it only a radio identifier number? Or is it even displayed, versus require a query?
Legeros - 04/30/11 - 16:18

It is POSSIBLE to make the actual identifier available to the dispatcher, but it is not practical. There would have to be daily re-programming of identifiers as someone carries a radio from EMS1 to EMS 13.

Another issue that has surfaced – our consistent failure to geographically NAME the COMMAND and to use the name during all future communications. The poor guys sitting at the dispatch console with 4 tac channels going hears 4 different voices saying “HEADQUARTERS from COMMAND.” It would make the top of my head fly off!
CH100 - 04/30/11 - 17:32

Thanks, Chief. Silly me, thinking only of mobile-mounted radios.

Now, for geographic command locations, is that preferred for all units operating, or just command communicating to communications?

Legeros - 04/30/11 - 17:53

Proper use of Area Command would have definitely reduced the resource ordering from the telecommunicators at ECC and made the comms issues much easier. I strongly believe a plan should now be developed, practiced, and implemented. It should be pre-scripted to allow for not only the authority to implement by initial IC’s, but also use pre-established locations, talkgroups, and standardized management strategies. Hey, can we say “IMT’s” Chief 100? I believe the iron is now HOT!
A.C. Rich - 04/30/11 - 19:17

I completely agree with Chief100 regarding the naming of command. I preach that to my telecommunicators that if command doesn’t name itself, we name it (Market St Command, Clayton High School Command) and address them as such from that point forward. I have worked both sides of the Wake/Johnston line, both in the 911 center and on the ambulance, and consistently we fail to name our command. It is extremely confusing when we have multiple tac/ops talkgroups active and hear “command to central.” I also agree with Chief Rich regarding the use of area commands. When you have several areas of a city or county impacted by an event, the area command concept works extremely well. Have an area command for each geographic area impacted and you will see a much more efficient use of resources and the 911 center doesn’t have to blindly follow cad recommendations – they can ensure resources are ordered through the staging officer. I still work in the field as well as in the comm center and the proper use of ICS continues to consistently be a weak link. Chief 100, I applaud you for the hard work you’ve done getting the EMS division as up-to-speed on ICS as they are, and for your numbering scheme. I’ll hold your guys up against any around for proper use of ICS.
Jason Thompson (Email) - 04/30/11 - 21:43

Why would you need daily reprogramming of identifiers? I mean it would take a concerted effort to keep radios with the proper unit but all that means is crews make sure they swap the right radios. Sure if radios had to go out of service for repairs it would have to be updated but deck boxes have to be updated every time units switch trucks so its not that difficult. Additionally, if the radio ID was tied to the unit, when the emergency button is activated wouldn’t it be more convenient to have that immediately show which unit activated it?
Joey - 05/01/11 - 10:39

Without beating the dead horse too much, when it comes to all of the radio IDs, just listen to the EMS side of it. We HAVE unique IDs, and even then it is hard for the OVERWORKED and UNDERSTAFFED RW911 center to keep it all straight. I can say “RESCOM from EMS41” two or three times and get answered with “Last unit on RESCOM repeat”. I can only imagine how hard it is for them to keep track of numerous BATTALION 1s, ENGINE 1s, LADDER 1s, etc. You would think we would want to make it easier for them since one day that miscommunication may cost someone dearly. As Harkey said, if we were designing this system from the ground up today, would it look this way? Of course not.

As to naming command, you have to get into the habit. I remember back when ICS first started becoming ‘the norm’ one of the tenets was to use ICS on the small incidents so you can use it on the larger ones. If we get used to naming command on those smaller incidents where some would say maybe we don’t need to use ICS on the radio, maybe we would get better in naming command on the larger incidents. Just sayin’. I used to do it (calling command on smaller incidents) and people thought I was being funny. Even got called down for it a few times. Actually, I was trying to encourage some others to do it so they would not sound so comical on the radio.

Maybe I’ll start back.
DJ - 05/01/11 - 17:24

@ Joey….the process for changing DEK box numbers and the process for changing portable radio ID’s are two different animals. Changing portable radio ID’s is a lot more difficult and time consuming. Incidently, there are more than enough radios out there now that dont show the correct unit ID that is calling.
Dispatcher - 05/02/11 - 15:34

A portable radio goes in for repair, a replacement is issued. When the repaired radio is ready, someone else’s radio needs work, so the repaired radio goes somewhere else, and so on, and so one, and so on.
DJ - 05/02/11 - 18:05

I’m not a dispatcher so I can’t speak for them. But I don’t see any problem with each department having an Engine 1 and so on. When you use your department name in front of your unit number it seems to be sufficient. Now for the radio traffic during the storm: it’s going to happen when dealing with such a tragic situation. If anyone can recall, status heads didn’t work nor was rhere any ops or tac channels assigned. Normal day to day radio operations work great for Wake County. Chief Rich you are exacly right about about the command structure that should have taken place that day. Each district should have had their on operations channel and then I believe Dispatch 1 wouldn’t have been tied up so bad. I noticed that a lot of departments were trying to generate a run number for every tree down and every house that had damage. Firehouse software has a incident type called something like “ natural incedent” that could have been used for all the tree downs and power lines down that some departments were faced with. The department that I work for responded to a neighboring deparment for a tree down and accually removed hundreds of trees and checked numerous of houses in about a four hour period. There was one call report completed and everything was drawn out in the narrative. I will have to quote a peice of radio traffic I heard that day: “Raleigh from ????? Car 2 emergency traffic” “????? Car 2 go ahead” “10-4 Raleigh can you start a time and number for ??????? Car 2 for a low hanging power line at…..... and have Progress Energy respond.” This happened during the midst of the storm whith about 60 pending calls that wasn’t even dispatched yet.
911 - 05/02/11 - 21:44

If the dispatcher looks at thier screen in sure it shows up as RFC2 or ZBC2 etc…. I can see them missing it if they are slammed.
411 - 05/03/11 - 10:27

So let me ask the nay-sayers of designing a comprehensive system for Wake fire units: just what are you afraid of?

Using your logic, you would “advocate” a system in Wake where EMS would have several “EMS-1” units, such as, Wake EMS-1, Cary EMS-1, Eastern Wake EMS-1, and so forth. Does that sound like a good idea? Of course not.

Neither does thirteen Engine 1s, and however many Ladder 1s.
harkey (Email) - 05/03/11 - 20:42

Here in Craven county each Fire Dept has it’s own Station number so example New Bern is station 41, Township 7 is station 21 so the city doesnt operate too much on the county radio but if we do we would say example Craven from 41 engine 11. and they know it was new bern but on a normal basis the county depts would use the same type of thing craven from 21 E7 for station 21 engine 7 and so forth. But in everyday in New Bern we have our own channel so just say example New Bern Ladder 1 and dispatch would know Laddder 1 was calling them
nbfrvollie - 05/03/11 - 20:44

Maybe I’m missing something, but Craven county sounds even more confusing. Correct me if I’m misguided but the obvious example Wake County should follow is Guilford County. Local counties that have a county wide unit number system include Durham, Chatham and Orange counties. They are more rural counties, but Guilford County is not.
Andrew - 05/03/11 - 21:27

...but didn’t High Point FD exempt itself from Guilford’s system? Or was just with regard to county-wide station numbers?
Legeros - 05/03/11 - 21:31

I don’t know much about Guilford County but in Harnett County they use the same system. Each district has a number. Example if you are district number is 8 then your engine number is 821, pumper tanker is 841, ambulance is either medic 8 or 851, tankers are 831, ladder is 848, rescue is 881, and brush is 871. I like that if it’s what you are use too. I actually like how Stoney Hill, Bay Leaf, and the rest of the departments use. I am against this because of the change but it’s one of those things that I would have to get over. This is a very sensitive topic for some but is a great discussion.
911 - 05/03/11 - 22:33

Yes, High Point is own their own little planet, which makes it a perfect model for Wake County no? Cary could exempt!
Andrew - 05/04/11 - 11:59

A system akin to what Harnett County has would make perfectly good sense for Wake. Just decide a convention for the suffix numbers to ensure consistency and assign a station number for each station not department. Folks would learn it quickly and it would eliminate any chance for confusion on every incident. But then some holyer than though folks would claim financial hardship in replacing the gold leaf numbers and the concept would die a quick death. And the fire service would remain again unimpeded by progress.
chaos rules - 05/06/11 - 17:24

I agree “chaos”...we’ve beat it to death around these parts. Mikey, there’s a project for you; how many comments have been stored concerning the modernization/ standardizing/ enhancing the Wake County Fire Service?

Bayleaf and Stony Hill are fine examples of a countywide program that could work and would be a great starting point; go back to the county station numbers and use them as a prefix when multiple units of the same type exist in a firehouse, or sole number of a single piece of that type exists (Engine 2-6-1, 2-6-2 or Squad 26 and use Chief 26, Chief 26-A, Chief 26-B).
Silver - 05/07/11 - 01:00

Ha, Silver. Your suggestion of using county station numbers as a prefix WAS a numbering system, back in the day!
Legeros - 05/07/11 - 08:33

I know!! Bring it back!!
Silver - 05/07/11 - 12:34

Stony Hill (26,39), Bay Leaf (12,25,36), Hopkins (22), Wendell (11), Rolesville FD (15), and Knightdale Public Safety (13) are the only department’s using the older numbering format. At SH, I plan to keep it around for a while.
A.C. Rich - 05/07/11 - 14:16

... and Western Wake (19) (sorry for the omission)
A.C. Rich - 05/07/11 - 14:17

You forgot about Zebulon too (9). I,unlike many around here, agree and would LOVE to see some kind of better system in place, but again too many people with the “My Kingdom” mentality and “who’s going to pay to re-gold leaf my trucks??” REALLY?? So, that is more important than say….SAFETY due to a miscommunication?? I’ve heard several people say “It’s not so hard to just say XX E-1 and besides I like it” but to that I say, well it’s not so hard to say E-261 or E-191 or E-222, plus there wouldn’t be any confusion. BUT until a true concern for the safety of citizens in this county and those of us that ride the rigs to protect them, occurs from all the powers to be in the county, there will never been any real change here. It truly is,in my opinion,a SAD situation that a county with 1 million citizens in 2011 still operates like a county with 20,000 citizens in 1985. While the entire county does not operate this way, the greater majority does. Oh well, off my soapbox and round of kicking this poor horse again.
Stay safe out there folks
Wayne - 05/07/11 - 19:03

Will county consolidation tip the scale on this someday? Okay, being presumptuous here. Is a county-run fire department the likely future for the non-municipal fire departments in Wake County? If your answer is “yes” or perhaps “probably,” then surely unit numbering will be improved. And even if your name isn’t Shirley.

Consolidation. The “C” word. Does it make some folks tremble, and set others to excited tail-wagging? The county already owns the lion’s share of those department’s new apparatus, no? Facility ownership, less so. Stony Hill #1, Fuquay-Varina #3, Garner #4. And if/when Bay Leaf #1 gets built, that’ll also be a county building, I believe.

Paying for the people, now that’s your big budget item. But there’d be freed monies. Put all your “rural” department resources in a pot and, for starters, you’ll probably prune a station or two. And redistribute resources. And eliminate redundancies, either immediately or perhaps over time. Staff positions on paper are still living and breathing people, however.

Thus it would be an exceptionally emotional transition, were it made. Some think it’s a “will be” situation. So far, there haven’t been calls for action from citizens or officials in that direction (have there been?). But the future is an awfully long time…
Legeros - 05/07/11 - 19:22

Ooops… yep, forgot Zebulon (sorry).

I say a county department is probably just around the corner unless “things” change somehow. The catapult may simply be a change in select leadership positions at the county staff level, which is certainly coming in the future. New leadership may view our current status a little differently. For years I have been an advocate that we should try to control our destiny by setting examples, yet an overall lack of unity seems to diminish the goal of collective effort. “We” seemingly keep on failing ourselves due to many reasons, one being the competition for funding and/or trying to project our credibility to qualify for funding consideration. Once again, a lack unity is displayed. Also, it is seemingly more unpopular today to “do the right thing” as many prefer maintenance of the status quo and political correctness to protect interests. Here is a novel idea… if it is wrong, say it is wrong. Don’t dismiss the issue.

Ironically, all of these previously indicated behaviors are natural (believe it or not). The twist comes when a different behavior enters into the picture and it is in a position of power. If the new is valued over the current… change will occur regardless of our attempts to control or even guide it. Consider this: the projected budget for Wake Co. fire next FY is ~$20 million.
A.C. Rich - 05/07/11 - 17:38

Here’s a map to help visualize what we’re talking about, http://www.legeros.com/ralwake/photos/we.. (as posting) or http://www.legeros.com/ralwake/photos/we.. (as full image). Those are all the fire insurance districts in the county. Anything colored white is a municipal fire district. Anything non-white (pink, gray, etc.) is a “rural” district. (Plus RDU, which is also colored in that fashion.)

A couple municipal districts are covered by private fire departments. Garner, Rolesville, Wendell. And maybe Wake Forest, which is part-private, no? Many “rural” districts are covered by municipal fire departments. Apex, Morrisville, Zebulon, etc. They receive county funding for that coverage.

So what are we talking about, when talking about consolidation and what might happen if the county “ran things” with regard to rural fire protection? From an administrative perspective, it could mean folding all private fire departments into a single entity. But are there are probably other variations, no? Anyway, that’s what the map looks like.
Legeros - 05/08/11 - 03:24

I dont see the point in all this. If the mess hits the fan in Fuquay, and we have 30 different units coming, i really dont think anybody is going to care what those units are called. As long as they get there and can get the job done. Different departments do things their own way and that is perfectly fine by most. If we want to call an engine in Fuquay, Fuquay Engine 2, why does it matter? If Holly Springs calls their Engine 2 1297386427651879….still coming if we call but to me Holly Springs Engine 2 is alot easier to identify instead of 1297386427651879. In a industry that is ever changing, terminology, tactics, and so on seem to be more of an issue than a silly number game. County departments who still “condition red” it… Thats the stuff we need to work on.
TTaylor - 05/09/11 - 14:28

You pose a good question, Taylor. What indeed is the point? And thus my original question. When all heck was breaking loose— and “30 different units” were coming— how did the current system work? Were there specific successes or failures to substantiate the value of either “the way it is” or “the way it should be changed.” ‘Cause that’s ultimately the gauge of change, proposed or otherwise. Did it add value? Did it make a difference? ‘Cause, you know, it’s easy to discuss all this stuff. But it’s worth connecting to outcomes. To case examples. Otherwise, we’re just talkin’, no?
Legeros - 05/09/11 - 17:13

Wake Forest is the same as Garner and is the same as Rolesville. They are combi departments that contract with both the town and county to provide fire protection.

AC how does the amount of this years budget vary from last years? If it is more then by how much?
Mike - 05/09/11 - 20:10

FY11 – $1,993,975 (operating) $2,610,000 (capital)
FY10 – $1,255,530 (operating) $3,774,000 (capital)
FY09 – $1,391,075 (operating) $2,796,000 (capital)
FY08 – $1,818,504 (operating) $9,812,000 (capital)

If I read the budget docs correctly from http://www.wakegov.com/budget/pastbudget..
Legeros - 05/09/11 - 20:17

Not much increase, but all is dependent on collections and growth. The fire tax revenues from previous years were presented at the past Fire Commission meeting: FY 2010-11 was $20,195,000. FY 2009-10 was 20,285,000. FY 2008-09 was 20,427,000. The rate is 8 cents and has been since FY 2008-09.

The collection estimate for FY 2011-12 is $20,248,000 and the Fire Commission recommended budget is 84% operating at $16,545,315 (with a 2% merit increase included) and 16% capital at ~$3,700,000. Operating includes salaries, supplies, etc. Capital includes new stations, new apparatus, and new equipment (Turnout gear replacement, TIC replacement, SCBA replacement, SCBA cylinder replacement, Defib replacement). Source – Fire Commission Handouts from the May 5th meeting.
A.C. Rich - 05/09/11 - 23:49

ML, from my experience the day of the storm, we were dispatched to Fairview and once we arrived we stayed with them for most of the afternoon. Our station 1 was with Holly Springs for the most part. When our tones hit for the initial call for Engine 2 to go to fairview, everything went back to an area command style operation. We would clear from a call and check with command, roll to another, and another with out ever having to call central. The only time I think we talked to central was when we let them know we were back in Fuquay. This seemed to work out great in my opinon. We’ve done this before with “storm” events in FV and worked out great then. After it was all said and done, 1 report for our station with a batch entry of different locations we had went to and task that had been performed.
TTaylor - 05/10/11 - 07:37

Thanks AC
Mike - 05/10/11 - 08:17

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