The Cleveland City Council might not have to look very hard in the future to find a new fire chief. Six year-old Jameson Baggett wants to be a firefighter and someday, he wants to be the fire chief.
At this time, Jameson’s management style will be leading by example because he wasn’t very talkative Saturday when he visited Cleveland Fire Department Station No. 4 with his father, Adam, and his younger sister, Presley.
When asked if he wanted to be a fireman, he nodded his head up and down, and when asked if he wanted to be the fire chief, he again nodded his head in the affirmative.
In 2013, Jameson visited Station No. 5 where he learned how to escape a burning structure by going through the fire department’s mock house that fills up with a harmless vapor. This year, Jameson, his father and sister visited Fire Station No. 4.
“We thought we would go to a different one this year because he loves fire trucks,” Jameson’s father said.
The future firefighter dressed up in bunker gear and got some hands-on training operating the “jaws of life” under the close supervision of Lt. Pete VanDusen and firefighter T. J. Smith.
Lt. VanDusen began the demonstration by jamming the tool into the crack between the driver’s side door and doorjamb. He held onto the vehicle extraction tool while Jameson turned the handle that opened a bi-directional hydraulic valve that opens and closes the jaws. The jaws spread apart until it popped open the door of a wrecked SUV. He used the same technique to break the top and bottom hinges and then cut the wiring harness.
Another young visitor, wearing a plastic red firefighter’s helmet, held his hands over his ears as he stood several feet away from the gas-powered hydraulic pump that delivered 5,000 psi of fluid to the vehicle extraction tool through two hoses.
Extrication tools on today’s market operate at 10,000 psi in order to cut the stronger metal used in doorposts of some vehicles. Lt. VanDusen, who is an emergency medical technician, said auto manufacturers are moving toward stronger metals in the roof structures of vehicles. The move to stronger materials began with luxury cars, such as Mercedes and Volvo, then Subaru and Volkswagen followed.
“They’re making more of a roll cage around the occupants of vehicles now," said Lt. VanDusen.
They’re using exotic metals like boron to strengthen the upright posts and these tools will not cut boron. In two years, every vehicle will have exotic metals in its structure.”
The fire department’s tools will still open doors of those vehicles, but sometimes a roof needs to be cut off to make more room for first responders to work around and remove a patient.
“Sometimes the damage is so intense to the side of a vehicle that you have to take the roof off to get the patient out,” he said. “I think it was 2010 when we started seeing it a lot and I think the standard goes into effect in 2016.”
There are minor changes in the appearance of the new tools that are mostly ergonomic. The real difference is in the beefed up pump, the number of hoses and the coupling system. The current equipment utilizes two hoses whereas newer tools use one hose.
"All of the manufacturers have gone to a single-coupling system so you just have to connect one line,” Lt. VanDusen said. “If we want to put a different tool on this hose, we’ve got to dump the pressure off the pump before we can take the tool loose. On new systems, you don’t have to dump the pressure off the pump, the coupling allows you to open it up without taking the pressure off of it.”
The difference in time between the old and the new is only a matter of a few seconds, but seconds add up to minutes and minutes cut into the time it takes to transport patients to Chattanooga within the goal of 60 minutes.
“The new pumps are more efficient. Currently, we have to leave a man with the pump to charge it and discharge it, but with the new equipment, we could free up a man because we don’t have to charge and discharge the pump,” Lt. VanDusen said.
The Cleveland Fire Department dispatches two engines to an accident with usually three, but sometimes with four men on an engine.
"So you’ve got six people and that sort of makes every set of hands important. If we can free up a set of hands to do something else, then the patient benefits,” Lt. VanDusen said.
The fire department operates on the premise of the “golden hour” because a patient’s survival dramatically increases when a seriously injured patient is transported to a medical facility within 60 minutes.
“Our goal is to get a patient out and get them to a hospital within that hour if at all possible.” he said.
The golden hour begins when the injury occurs, which on average, is reported to 9-1-1 operators within a minute because everyone has a cellphone. Their goal is to dispatch a fire truck within a minute.
“When the buzzer goes off here, we’re generally on the road within two minutes,” he said. “So you’re talking about four minutes of that golden hour from the time of injury to the time a truck is rolling.”
Within the city limits, the average time from dispatch to arriving on a scene is four minutes.
“Now you’re looking at eight minutes gone of that golden hour,” Lt. VanDusen said. “Extrications take 10 to 12 minutes on average. Now you’re looking in the ballpark of 20 minutes of that golden hour. A Chattanooga transport, if we go by ground is about 33 minutes, so you’re cutting into 50 minutes of that golden hour just to get a patient to Erlanger in the best of situations, so the quicker we can get our job done, that’s something we can do something about. You can’t do anything about road miles. We get our response time down as low as we can and we get our extrication as efficient as we can to save some of that golden hour for doctors.”
Most patients are transported to SkyRidge Medical Center, but they try to transport seriously injured patients to Erlanger because it is the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the region.
Transporting by air does not save much time if an accident occurs within the city limits, if there is no traffic between Cleveland and Chattanooga. Helicopter evacuations save time outside of town.
This was the third year the Cleveland Fire Department opened its five stations to the public to firefighting, medical, hazardous material contamination and other emergencies including water rescue and vehicle extrication techniques.
The city’s five stations are at:
— Station One is located at 555 South Ocoee St. It was dedicated in 1978 and houses the administrative offices as well as fire suppression units.
— Station Two, located at 505 Paul Huff Pkwy, was built in 2000 to cover the heavily commercial area of Paul Huff Parkway. It is home to Engine Company E2 and Reserve Aerial Snorkel 1.
— Station Three, located at 2000 APD-40, was built in 1988 to quickly access all areas connected to APD-40. It is home to Engine Company E3.
— Station Four, located at 2850 Keith St., was originally built in 1969 and expanded in 1976. It is the city’s oldest station and home to Engine Company E4 and Ladder Company L4.
— Station Five, located at 2595 Freewill Road, was built in 2007 and is the city’s newest station. It is home to Engine Company E5 and Hazmat Response Unit HM1.