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“Autumn is the time of year when Mother Nature says, ‘Look how easy, how healthy, and how beautiful letting go can be.’”
– Toni Sorenson  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 9 September 2018  

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  Staffing insights and mid-year statistics
  By Robin Widmar

   The balance between staffing and budget
   From its inception in 1975 as an all-volunteer fire department through its evolution into a fire district with one of the fastest-growing populations in El Paso County, the Falcon Fire Protection District’s history is built on making the best of what it has to work with. The department’s early years saw volunteers retrofitting a 1948 Dodge to be used as a fire engine, building its first fire station from salvaged building materials, and hosting fundraisers to support emergency operations.
   
   Times may have changed, but the legacy of thriftiness and fiscal responsibility has carried into current times. When possible, the district applies for grants to purchase equipment. Fire apparatus is only purchased or replaced when necessary, and they are paid for with funds set aside in the annual budget for that purpose instead of paying interest on loans. Falcon Fire Station 1 was constructed under a 10-year lease purchase agreement paid off five years early, saving taxpayers about $198,000 in interest, according to the March 2015 issue of “The New Falcon Herald.”
   
   Another way the fire district works within its budget is reflected in staffing. Falcon Fire Chief Trent Harwig has reported at board meetings that it costs about $50,000 per year in salary and benefits just to hire one full-time entry-level firefighter/EMT. With firefighters scheduled across three work shifts, the district must hire three firefighters to fill one “slot” at one fire station. Unlike one-time purchases of apparatus, employees create an ongoing expense the district must manage through both flush and lean financial times.
   
   Currently, the district has 21 full-time firefighters to staff three fire stations 24/7. Two firefighters work at each of the district’s three staffed stations every shift, for a total of six full-time firefighters on duty each day. An additional firefighter assigned to each of the three shifts can fill in for employees who are sick or on vacation. When needed, firefighters are hired back for overtime to fulfill staffing requirements.
   
   Harwig said the goal is to have a minimum of three full-time firefighters at each station every shift. The proposed ambulance service would require an additional firefighter/EMT and firefighter/paramedic per ambulance per shift. Another long-term goal is to staff FFPD Station 2 (on No. Meridian Road near Murphy Road) to help improve response times in the north end of the district. All of that requires more personnel, and more personnel means more expense.
   
   FFPD also utilizes part-time employees and reserve (volunteer) personnel to supplement its full-time staffing. However, FFPD has hired many of its part-time personnel as full-time employees; thus, depleting the part-time ranks. The district also routinely loses both part-time and reserve personnel who move on to full-time positions elsewhere.
   
   Replacing reserve personnel takes time. FFPD requires its reservists to undergo the same training and obtain the same certifications as its full-time firefighter/EMTs. The reserve academy requires about six months of training two evenings a week and every Saturday, plus ride-alongs with on-duty crews. It can be difficult to juggle work, family and training; not all who start the academy complete it.
   
   FFPD regularly applies for federal staffing grants but has not always received them. Should a grant be awarded this year to hire additional staff, the fire district must be able to absorb the cost of those personnel when the grant ends. Responsible management of the fire district’s budget is a balancing act between revenue and expenditures, not unlike households having to keep expenses from outpacing income.
   
   Mid-year statistics
   Between Jan. 1 and June 30, FFPD had 1,317 calls for service, which is a 14.7 percent increase over last year’s 1,148 calls during the same period.
   
   In the first six months of 2018, emergency medical calls accounted for 52.7 percent of all incidents, and traffic accidents came in at 11.8 percent. More than half (53.2 percent) of EMS calls and traffic accidents combined resulted in one or more patients being transported by ambulance.
   
   Fires of all types (structure, wildland, vehicle, etc.) comprised just 3.6 percent of the total. However, it is important to remember that structure fires and large scale incidents such as the Woodmen Road grass fire in March or April’s Highway 24 grass fire are resource-intensive, requiring a large number of personnel and apparatus to bring them under control.
   
   Good intent calls made up 12.1 percent of calls for service in the first half of 2018. These types of calls include investigations of smoke (such as when smoke drifts into the area from wildfires across the state), authorized controlled fires and other instances where firefighters did not find an emergency when they arrived.
   
   False alarms accounted for 6.7 percent of 2018 calls. About 79 percent of smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm activations were the result of low batteries or outdated alarms.
   
   Stay connected with the FFPD
   Website: http://falconfirepd.org
   Facebook: Falcon Fire Department
   Twitter: @FalconFireDept
  
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  Bicycle safety for all ages
  By Robin Widmar

   Falcon firefighters teach bicycle safety as part of their annual safety presentations to local second-graders. However, bike riders of every age should take precautions to stay safe while riding. This is even more important as students begin returning to classes and traffic increases around the schools.
   
   According to the National Safety Council, in 2015, bicycles were involved in more injuries than skateboards, trampolines, swimming pools and playground equipment combined. The NSC reported that 488,123 people were treated in emergency rooms for bike-related injuries that year, and 1,100 deaths resulted from collisions with motor vehicles.
   
   Here are some tips to be safe and enjoy the ride.
  • Wear a helmet that fits properly. (Helmets are also a good idea when skating, skateboarding and riding scooters!) Visit https://www.safekids.org/tip/bike-safety-tips for more information about proper helmet fit.
  • Adjust the bicycle to fit the rider.
  • Keep bicycles maintained. Make sure that tires are properly inflated and brakes work.
  • Carry books or other items in a bicycle carrier or backpack to keep hands free and on the handlebars.
  • Wear bright clothing for visibility and avoid riding at night. If riding at night is necessary, use a bright headlight, wear reflective clothing and use reflectors and/or a flashing warning light on the rear of the bicycle to alert motorists.
  • Obey traffic laws and use hand signals when turning. Always use extra care at intersections.
  • Ride single-file in the direction of traffic.
  • Before entering traffic, stop and look left, right, then left again, and over the shoulder.
  • Make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street to make sure they are paying attention.
  • Watch for opening car doors, potholes, broken pavement and other road hazards.
  • Never hitch onto cars.
Remember that children learn a lot by watching adults, so it is important to set good examples by following these same guidelines.
   
   (Sources: National Safety Council, Safe Kids Worldwide, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
  
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