Serious Crash This Morning on Opdyke near Pontiac Road

Guest Blogged by Sgt. Brandon Hollenbeck

This morning AHPD and AHFD responded to a vehicle crash southbound on Opdyke Road near Kircher Road.  Upon arrival Officer Vanlandeghem found that a pick-up truck traveling north on Opdyke had crossed over and hit a pick-up truck traveling south on Opdyke in a head on type collision causing the driver of one of the trucks to be entrapped.  Officer Vanlandeghem called out for additional resources and advised that both s/b lanes of Opdyke would be shut down.  Officer Sparre and myself responded to the scene.  Officer Sparre diverted Opdyke traffic to Pontiac Road.  Officer Vanlandeghem investigated the accident.  AHFD performed a successful extraction and transported the driver to St. Joseph’s Mercy.  The driver was alert, conscious, and appeared to be in some pain at the scene.  IMG_0019


Officer Vanlandeghem and Officer Sparre did an excellent job protecting and managing the accident scene.  AHFD personnel did an excellent job (in my opinion) with the extraction of the driver.  Both AHPD and AHFD worked together tremendously at this accident scene which was complex and involved during heavy morning traffic flow (on snow covered roads in single digit temperatures).  The roadway was opened and traffic flow was restored to normal as quickly as possible.


IMG_0022While this accident was occurring Officer B. Miller and Officer Iacobelli were working to quick clear a three car accident on M59 with vehicles on both sides of the freeway.

Good job by all.

I agree – excellent job by all.  Take your time on snow covered and slippery roads.  Give yourself plenty of room between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you.  Make sure that your vehicle is in proper working order including good tires, maybe even snow tires would be best.  



Emergency Medical Dispatch has Changed the Way We Respond

You might recall that earlier this year we made a move to Emergency Medical Dispatch.  We purchased a nationally known software package developed by emergency medical personnel to direct our dispatchers more effectively in how to deal with callers with medical emergencies.  It is a system used around the country.   In the past, we did not give medical directions like how to conduct CPR or other lifesaving, we transferred the caller to STAR EMS our partners in emergency medical service.  Now that we are flying solo with respect to delivery of EMS services, we needed to make this change.  Along the way we also made a change to Emergency Fire Dispatch to improve how we are handing fire calls.

We have had extensive training and our personnel are operational on a software program called Pro-QA.  It is the highest quality software system we could find in the country and the one accepted by Oakland County Medical Control Authority–the rule setting body for emergency medical services in our county.  It is an automated tool to provide the very best in pre-hospital patient care. During the course of an emergency medical call, ProQA guides the process of collecting the vital information from the caller, obtaining the patient’s status, choosing an appropriate dispatch level, and instructing the caller with medically approved protocols until the dispatched units arrive at the scene.


This is what the text we get looks like. The call is an M or medical. The 06 tells the EMS rig what the medical problem category is, the C code means a mid level response –D and E are lights and sirens and police are sent–the most serious calls. The 3R tells us who is being sent-Rescue 3 is the dispatched unit. Then the address. We click on the https:// link and the dispatch card with more details pops up and we get another link to a Google map to the location.

One aspect that our callers will need to adjust to is that we no longer runs lights and sirens to calls that don’t have potential as a serious medical issue as we did in the past.  The dispatchers ask many more questions as directed by the software to gain information about the patient’s status.  They are typing the answers to the questions into the software which is being read by the radio operator who is dispatching the units.  The units in the field are also receiving a text message that is updating with the answers to the questions.  You can see an example at right.

It is a highly technical system and we like it.

You might not like it as well if you don’t understand it particularly when you are a caller.  You may become frustrated when the call taker keeps asking questions and you may get the idea that no one is being sent to you.  At a certain point in the conversation when we have enough information, the units are dispatched even though the call taker is still on the line with you.

See a demo of the software here of a medical call.  Note that there is a timer on the screen.  Every dispatcher is timed for each call and later evaluated.   Our goal is to achieve the fastest possible call processing time by each dispatcher while maintaining accuracy.

We also purchased the software for Emergency Fire Dispatch to improve our method for dispatching fire.

See a demo of the software here of a fire call.

We are changing to do the very best for you.

Mall Exercise Last Night

We had an EXCELLENT training event last night at Great Lakes Crossings Mall.  It was a full-scale event involving people who played roles as the bad guys AKA active shooters, press people, wounded victims.  Most of us, including me, played our own roles–what we would do in the event of an incident like this.  FBI was there.  Oakland County Homeland Security,
Great Lakes Crossings Security, other police agencies with officers trained to respond to this kind of event, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office swat team members–all in all more than 300 people.  Even the Salvation Army came out to help with coffee and hot dogs for the participants in that cold, cold rain.

Lt Miarka briefing the teams in staging prior to event start.

Lt Miarka briefing the teams in staging prior to event start.

Of course, there are always unexpected things that happen.  Like the rollover freeway crash on southbound I-75 right at the time the mall traffic was exiting.  We had to close the freeway ramp at Joslyn for a while so as not to add to the traffic jam since we had to close some lanes for a time.  Then another injury crash came in north of the mall area in a subdivision and we had to divert units there.  So we got started a little late.  Not to mention that yesterday was a looonnnggg day for our Fire Department.  Deputy Director Manning, Assistant Chief Macias and many of our personnel were on the scene of the tornado hit in Rochester Hills as mutual aid beginning at about 6:30 am.  And it was a cold, dank rain.  But that is just what life is like–we operate in the real world so there is no idea of postponing for any reason.

I admit that it was chilling listening to the original dispatch of armed men in the mall and an officer down.  I was sitting in a vehicle with Deputy Director Hardesty waiting to be deployed.  Deputy Director Manning was in his vehicle parked behind us, also waiting.  There is a system to the response on an event like this and we have all been trained extensively.  We use the federal National Incident Management System developed by FEMA after 9/11 to organize ourselves and make it possible for agencies to work together.  My job was to establish an incident command post taking over command of the overall incident and assisting the operational command post staffed by sergeants on scene, so that we deal with the next level of the incident.  There is a great deal to be done.  At first we waited silently listening to the dispatch and the response of the initial officers–after a while training takes over and you begin to think about what needs to be done, by whom and when.  In the initial phases we have limited resources so there was only a handful of us at the command post level to deal with everything from city elected officials who are calling wanting information, to the media and public information, to the needs of reunification of people and victims involved in the event, to the investigation (it is a big crime scene, remember?), as well as the overall fire and rescue aspects.  The event is dynamic and moving very quickly.

Overall it was a big success.  Whenever we do it we learn some things that we think we can do better next time.  We had lots of observers watching and evaluating us.  We’ll get that information assembled in the coming days so that we can review it and consider specific improvements.  But I think we did well overall.  One of the things we wanted to test was the Rescue Task Force.  We recently developed and trained our fire and police personnel to respond together to a “warm” zone  (not totally safe) to treat injured.  We are the first ones in this region to take up this new aspect.  We decided to do it because in some of these incidents like the LAX shooting, Aurora theater and others, victims have died while waiting for medical help because they were down in an unsecured area.  Traditional fire training puts medics in a triage area away from the action with the police bringing victims out.  Of our team of medics, 14 volunteered for the training –they are not armed but they wear ballistic helmets and bullet resistant vests and are guarded by police as they enter “warm” and even “hot” zones to locate and give basic treatment.  We had some local fire chiefs on hand to observe that aspect.

Firefighters gearing up as a rescue task force.

Firefighters gearing up as a rescue task force.

Lt. Miarka, who with assistance from FBI personnel, Oakland Sheriff’s Office and others, set up this mammoth undertaking which took about a year to plan.  He was here early this am, just like usual–( he looks a little tired though.)  Part of the planning was his extensive study of mall shootings around the country to learn what other police said about what happened and how they dealt with it.  He shared with us what he learned.  The event was modeled on some of the other events.  The bad guys keep morphing their techniques and we must do the same.

Rescue task force in action. Officers guarding medics who are helping victims.

Rescue task force in action. Officers guarding medics who are helping victims.

Great Lakes Crossings Mall is a very safe environment, precisely because they enthusiastically partner with us to train and practice for an event we pray we never have to meet.

Even Fox 2 came out to report on our training.

What Slows Down Emergency Responders When Every Second Counts

A few weeks ago I was watching a “dash cam” video from one of our cars.  The video came from a sergeant’s car as he was en route to intercept the pursuit of an armed robbery suspect.  The sergeant’s role is to supervise the pursuit –it is his/her responsibility to make sure our policies and procedures are followed to ensure the safety of the public and the officers themselves.  He was trying to get to the location where he expected the pursuit to end.   In this case it was an armed robbery of a gas station where a gun was seen.  The video shows him struggling to get around a truck in the left lane.  The sergeant was using lights and sirens and still the truck wouldn’t move.  Ultimately he did, but slowly.  It wasn’t clear if he didn’t hear or see the police car behind him or he didn’t know what to do. Playing loud radios or wearing headphones or talking on the telephone in the car is commonplace now.  It creates a dangerous situation for us and delays our response.

We have changed our response policies for both police and fire to limit our use of lights and sirens.  So when you see us coming lights and sirens–it is the real deal.

I’ve attached a news story that gives some detail to the subject.

By the way, the law in Michigan says to pull to the right to allow emergency vehicles to pass.  It is very dangerous for us to pass you on the right and we train our folks not to do that.  Allow us to pass by pulling to the right and stopping.

We know you want us to be there when you need our help.  Paying attention to emergency vehicles and pulling over helps us get where we are going.

Why Do Fire Engines Go On Medical Calls?

I was at the Dream Cruise on Woodward last week and had an opportunity to see some other fire departments at work.   We saw one EMS run that included both an ambulance and a fire engine following.  Now I don’t know what the call was so I don’t know what was needed.  But I do know a bit about this sort of thing in general.  It is a question that comes up frequently.  A-2

Back awhile ago,  we frequently sent an engine on the same calls with an ambulance because we didn’t have detailed enough information about the call to know exactly what was  needed to treat the patient or take the needed action.  There are 2 people on the ambulance–most of the time it is two paramedics but it could be one medic and one EMT (Emergency Medical Technician–it is a state licensing category).  And there are another 1 or 2 on the engine.  As of June of this year, we began using Emergency Medical Dispatching (EMD) which is a dispatching strategy using flip cards or software to question callers about the nature of the medical emergency in such a detailed way that we can classify a call’s emergency status.  Our dispatch staff had to go through significant training to operate under the system.  (It is carefully monitored so we also have frequent quality reviews to make sure we are doing it correctly.)  So now we know what is likely to be happening at the call so we can more accurately send the right apparatus and personnel.  For certain types of calls that indicate high likelihood of a life threatening event–like trouble breathing or chest pain–we know that we need all hands on deck because if it is likely to be a CPR call which will require lots of on scene personnel to do all the tasks it takes.  Others receive a lower classification if call is determined to be a lower priority.  Some are even answered without lights and sirens.  It is very dangerous for the motoring public and for us to drive lights and sirens anywhere–so we minimize the times we do it.

Our police and fire operate on two different radio talk groups and don’t usually listen to each other since both radio groups tend to be pretty busy and “step” on each other’s transmissions.  The dispatch listens to and dispatches on both groups.  With EMD when dispatchers find that a medical call is classified by the software or on the flip cards as a life threatening emergency, the police are also dispatched because they can get there more quickly and we don’t have to send another apparatus with more firefighters.  They can locate the patient and begin some forms of treatment (like CPR or automatic defibrillator).  When the patient is transported, they go back on patrol.  We get a quicker, more effective response with both groups working more efficiently together.  Previously, police didn’t respond for the most part because it was a waste of time to send one or more officers along with 2 fire apparatus to every medical call, “just in case.”  It is just more efficient for both groups.

By limiting the number responding to any one call, we stay ready for the next call.  Now that we are providing advanced medical care ourselves, without the public/private partnership, sometimes you’ll see only the fire engine on a medical call.  That means that the 2 ambulances are busy on other calls so we’ve sent EMTs or paramedics, they are just on another type of apparatus.  They can treat you-they just can’t transport you.  As soon as an ambulance frees up, you will be on the way to the hospital.

It is a closely coordinated system and we monitor it closely.  We have found that it works efficiently for both police and fire.

New Members of our EMS and Firefighting Team

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We are pleased to announce six new members of our EMS and firefighting team.

Michael Palmer (former AHFD Cadet) and Ben Mielke will be assigned to station 1. Alex Kliest and Stephanie Wallace will serve as part-time FF/Medics.

Not listed, but returning to the department, are previous POC FF Bryan Dieniker and POC FF Dan Whal. Both will be assigned to station 3.

All of these individuals bring experience in both suppression and EMS.


Hoarder Fires

inside_a_hoarders_640_12Have you watched an episode of that TV program, “Hoarders”?  These situations create very hazardous conditions for the people who live there which includes the potential for a fire.  If there is a fire, the responding firefighters are also endangered by these conditions.   These extreme “collectors” pile things, papers, magazines, furniture, clothing, food, in high stacks that create a literal maze with narrow walkways.  Often the hoarders are older folks suffering from a mental disorder.  When a fire occurs search and rescue becomes much more difficult because the victims can be overcome by smoke and fumes before they can get out, so they must be rescued and carried out through the mess in very dangerous conditions.   Unlike commercial buildings where businesses must undergo periodic fire inspections, residences have no inspection requirements so these conditions can go unseen for many years.  When firefighters respond to a home, they can’t know what to expect at a home occupied by a hoarder.

Firefighters and their command officers anticipate the “fuel load” of a house meaning what couches, beds and other furnishings do under fire conditions.  Today’s furnishings and building materials have increased the danger to firefighters because more of the materials have a petroleum base and that increases the speed and heat released by the fire.  When the home as 3 or 4 times the amount of normal furnishings, there is a radical increase in the danger and completely changes the conditions firefighters must face in extinguishing the fire.  Windows and exits can be blocked and long burn times increase the potential for building collapse.

If you or someone in your life is a hoarder, don’t ignore the problem.  Click here for some information that may help.




Don’t Worry-Our Ladders Are Safe

I always listen to a radio news channel first thing every morning.  I’m interested in what has happened overnight and how that might play into my upcoming day.  An important story caught my attention this morning:

Fire Fighters Fall 40 feet when bucket drops

The bucket on an aerial ladder failed and dropped 3 firefighters during a training exercise in Georgia.  I found that very concerning since we have 3 trucks with aerial ladders that are in use frequently.  I knew that we had conducted our annual ladder testing on June 17th so I was somewhat confident that we were where we should be.  The City has a huge investment in equipment for the Fire Department and it is our responsibility to maintain it and make sure it is ready when needed and safe for our firefighters to use.

The fire department has over 400 feet of ground ladders and over 225 feet of aerial  ladders which were tested. Along with the annual testing this year, the three aerial trucks had a more  intense five year test. This testing covered structural integrity, heat exposure, and operational  performance. Preventative maintenance on top of the priority  list to extend the life of the equipment and to assure the safety of our firefighters.

The manufacturer of the failed ladders, Sutphen, has issued an alert to take their ladders out of service until they can be inspected since the Georgia incident closely followed a similar incident in Arizona.  In talking with Assistant Chief Macias today, I was relieved to learn that our ladders are not Sutphen ladders.

Example of what can happen.

Example of what can happen.

One less thing to worry about…..