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Fire districts revving up cross-border aid

Original post made on Aug 12, 2012

When a wildfire ignited grasslands in Pearson Arastradero Preserve on Wednesday afternoon, the various city and county fire departments that responded ignored their usual boundaries. The joint attack is one example of how fire responses will look in the near future due to expanding automatic-aid agreements.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, August 11, 2012, 3:28 PM

Comments (9)

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Posted by Frank
a resident of University South
on Aug 12, 2012 at 5:14 pm

One step closer to browning out or closing fire stations.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 13, 2012 at 9:05 am

This proposal offers encouragement that there might be some possibility to regionalize this necessary function of government. The article doesn't delve into this matter at all, so we really don't get much of a sense of how this new cooperation will work.

At some point, an analysis of the emergency response services for Palo Alto and Menlo Park (and possibly East Palo Alto) needs to be performed in order to understand what resources would be needed if a regionalization were to be considered. Too many people see fire protect only in terms of a fire station near their home, rather than in the fabric of the regional resources. Mutual Aid has helped to stitch together local resources in the past, but only loosely. Having a common dispatch center (which seems to be in the works, at some level) and compatible communications systems, is a good first step. But we also need full transparency in terms of tracking call-out locations, and costs associated with cross-boundary support.

Long term, we need 10-year, 20-year and 30-year cost estimations for providing emergency services under the current service delivery models, and under various scenarios for merged/regional delivery models.

Both Palo Alto and the Fire Protection District are to be commended for their forward thinking to date. Hopefully this cooperation will prove beneficial, and the basis for future cooperation in the future.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 13, 2012 at 10:27 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" Having a common dispatch center (which seems to be in the works, at some level) and compatible communications systems, is a good first step. But we also need full transparency in terms of tracking call-out locations, and costs associated with cross-boundary support."

ALL the fire departments in San Mateo County already have ONE dispatch center (a process initiated by MPFPD years ago), have dropped all boundaries and respond regardless of jurisdictional boundaries.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm

@ Wayne: I believe MPFD already covers EPA + Atherton and some unincorporated MP areas.


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Posted by Safety 1st
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm

It does seem that it should have ONE DISPATCH.


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Posted by anne
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 13, 2012 at 6:57 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Aug 13, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Control is an essential element of successful emergency incident command.

Would Anne prefer that emergency response done by a community meeting?


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 13, 2012 at 9:11 pm

> I believe MPFD already covers EPA + Atherton and some
> unincorporated MP areas.

Yes .. that's right. My use of the word "regionalization" might not be as clear as one might want in discussions like these. There are some who would see a "region" perhaps as large as the 6-County SF.BayArea. My sense is that trying to combine the public safe apparatus from the numerous small agencies that exist today (with a few large ones) would not be an easy proposition--at least for the Fire Departments. The police might be able to do it, however. Over the past few years the Scotland has debated combining the police forces of the whole country into a single command--servicing a 6-odd million country. The SF.BayArea is about 7M, so if Scotland can do it--then it stands to reason that we in the SF.BayArea could also.

My thinking about this is that it might not hurt to start thinking about "rebooting" Palo Alto City government, as well as others in the nearby area--by looking at merging/regionalizing various function so government to see what kinds of economy of scale that can be achieved, and what impacts there would be on the service delivery models.

For instance--with a budget of around $30M, the City of Palo Alto will be spending upwards of $300M over the next ten years, and about $750M over the next 20 years, and so on. Looking at neighboring Cities, they have Fire Department budgets that will ultimately end up spending in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, over this time frame.

The question I keep asking is: "how can Palo Alto, and its neighbors, spend their money differently, so that Palo Alto, and its neighbors, can end up spending less on its fire fighting apparatus and more on other matters--like funding the $550M (or 2x or 3x) needed for infrastructure repair/rehab? There are many possibilities--but unless we can get the question of "change" on the table, and into discussion by our elected officials, and our residents--we will continue to spend billions on public safety that is not necessarily being spent as effectively as it could be spent.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2012 at 7:16 pm

I worked in Redwood City many years ago near SMCO dispatch center. The County wide dispatch center was not "initiated by MPFPD" as Mr Carpenter states. There were several FD's in SMCO using a joint dispatch center for years when the MPFPD was still operating their own dispatch center. The MPFPD was lead on things through the years but County wide dispatch was not one of them.


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