Firefighters by Matt MacGillivray
A previously secret report from 2009, revealed by the Star reporters, shows that Toronto Fire’s response time to emergency significantly lags behind Northern American standards. Our firefighters lose on average two extra precious minutes compared to other fire crews. An expert report states that it should take about six minutes to get to the scene; however, it’s eight or more in Toronto. Two minutes don’ seem much in real life, but when it comes to fire extinguishing, every second may easily be the division line between life and death of the victims.
What are the reasons behind such unfavourable results of Toronto Fire Services? The answer is both sad and simple. Toronto lags in all steps preceding arriving at a blaze, from processing the call, through dressing up, to travelling the streets to reach the spot. Let’s take a look at what the process of setting off takes and analyze the troubling points as identified by the report.
Processing the Call
First of all, an emergency call is received by the 911 system, managed by Toronto Police Services. Normally, processing the call and informing Toronto Fire should take about 15 seconds. In Toronto, twice the time is needed for that.
Notifying Fire Hall
Afterward, dispatchers at Toronto Fire have to notify the closest fire hall. While standard time for doing so is approximately 60 seconds, fire crews in Toronto only learn about the fire in 100 seconds on average. This means that response time is almost a minute late compared to the standard desired time, already before the information actually reaches the firefighters.
Toronto Fire Services
by Diego Torres Silvestre
As soon as the crew learns about the emergency, they try to get out of the hall as quick as possible. “Turning out,” as firefighters put it, includes getting dressed, jumping into the truck, and driving out the gate. On average, this process should take about 80 seconds across North America. However, Toronto firefighters’ turn out lasts an alarming 185 seconds.
Finally, the last part before reaching the scene is getting to the fire through the streets full of traffic. Here, Toronto fire does a decent job and at last closely approaches the average time. While typical travel time is four minutes, our firefighters’ average is 4.5 minutes.
The Toronto fire chief seems to be aware that his department is not fast enough. “This fire service does not meet the standard, we know that,” Bill Stewart said. “It’s our goal, it’s where we want to be.” The interesting thing about the discussions is the fact, that the Fire Department and the City had kept the report secret for two years before the Star requested to review it under free access to information laws.
It is great that those responsible know about the problem, but how come the public wasn’t allowed to learn about the troubling results earlier? The Fire Department Chief claimed that it was due to privacy issues, but it’s unclear what’s supposed to be so private about such a report. No offense, but that is quite a lousy explanation, when saving lives by shaving off seconds from response time is in question.