Fire Service Master Plan recommendations presented to town

by Colin Smith

Town Council took a look at a proposed blueprint for fire services in Morinville at its November 19 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Developed by Behr integrated Solutions, the Fire Service Master Plan provides 24 recommendations for Morinville Fire Department to address gaps between fire risks in the community and the resources available to deal with them.

According to the report, Morinville Fire Department’s actual response time to calls is eleven minutes and 40 seconds, based on 125 seconds of call handling, 420 seconds of mobilization, and 155 seconds of drive time.

That compares to the Alberta Building Code standard required response time of 10 minutes for high intensity residential fires in 90 per cent of incidents.

In 2018, the average number of Morinville Fire Department staff available to respond to calls was 14.84, while the average number of firefighters on-scene was 8.87. The total staff is 44, including 40 paid on-call firefighters.

With a department operating budget of $752,087, fire service costs make up 3.88 per cent of the Town budget and are $76.37 per capita.

The number one recommendation of the proposed Fire Service Master Plan is development of a building inventory program and establishment of a cyclical fire inspection program for higher risk fire and life safety occupancies.

The second recommendation was that the department undertake a comprehensive risk analysis of the community and develop a Standard of Cover to effectively manage risks.

There is considered to be a staffing shortfall during normal weekday work hours. Options to address the shortfall include hiring four full-time firefighters for weekdays, expanding the Hall Coordinator’s program, and establishing a work experience program.

The recommendation is that the Fire Chief research the weekday staffing challenge and provide Council with preferred options for consideration. The 2020 Budget has the edition of a full time position to handle and coordinate weekday calls.

It is also recommended that the administration assess the types of calls the department receives to develop a resource management protocol for equipment and staff, and establish a more detailed category of responses to identify trends and mitigation strategies.

These recommendations could be fulfilled through use of staff time and would not require additional expenditure, unless it was decided to hire extra staff.

Other Fire Service Master Plan recommendations that would incur costs include replacement of the department’s pump 3 apparatus, $1.1 million, which is in the 2020 capital budget, and going ahead with proposed Fire Hall upgrades, $3.6 million.

It’s recommended that the department examine acquiring a prefab live-fire training building and purchase advanced equipment management software to implement an asset management program.

The plan also calls on the Fire Chief to review the response and compensation agreement with Sturgeon County.

A detailed financial analysis would be conducted to determine if the Town is being adequately compensated for the services provided to the County, following an analysis of call volumes.

False alarm trends should also be analyzed, with a view to reduce their occurrence and costs through public education and enforcement of fees for nuisance alarms, the plan recommends.

The Fire Department Master Plan will now go back to Town Council for further discussion at a regular meeting.

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