By Clint Parker
Weaverville – The Town Council of Weaverville has now acted twice as the purchasing agent on behalf of all county fire departments along with the Weaverville Fire Department. The latest time was at the last council meeting which listed the First Due Size Up program on its agenda.
The Tribune thought readers might be interested to find out more about this program for which the town is acting as the go-between for the fire department and the vender.
According to Weaverville Fire Chief Ted Williams, the program is a “pre-planning tool that pulls information from places such as the tax department permitting department. We can put information into it.” He went on to say, “It pulls all this information together and creates a picture for us, while on route to a call, of what this structure looks like that we’re going to.”
Williams says the system provides pictures and drawings of the interior of the home along with property value and other information to give fire responders a first look at what they’ll be encountering when they arrive on-scene. The application is fast. “We actually get our First Due alerts before we get our dispatch alerts,” he said.
Williams says while there is some pre-planning on commercial structures that goes on at the department for public safety, there is none on residential homes. The $2,560 per year paid by each department (a total of $46,080 for the 18 county departments) pulls that information together for firefighters as they’re en route on their mobile computers and devices.
“State fire code says we will be allowed into commercial structures to preplan those, inspect those. Do whatever we need to for the greater safety of the public,” said Williams. “Residental is not that way, so this gives us a piece of information that we would never have had before…We have a whole lot better picture of what we’ve got before we ever get there and we can be planning, in our minds, what our initial stages of that emergency operation are going to look like.”
According to the chief, the program gives firefighters “a safer situation because we’ve got more information.” Wiliams stressed the First Due Size Up does not take the place of real-world safety measures they initiate when they arrive on-scene of an emergency; it only adds to their safety measures. “This gives us the ability to have a lot of that information already in the back of our minds. We’re still going to do those walkarounds. We’re still going to make sure we’re providing safety for our folks. This just gives us a situation where we have a lot more information upfront.”
He also credits the system for allowing call reports to be completed quicker. “It will give us the property values, pulling that out of the assessors office, so all we’re having to do is put our best guess on what the loss value is,” explains the chief.
Asked why isn’t Buncombe County obtaining the system for the departments instead of having Weaverville be the purchasing agent and county departments pay for it themselves, Williams explains that currently, the county is doing a complete evaluation of its emergency communication system. “Our current CAD (computer-aided dispatch) system, we’ve done been told, is not going to be supported anymore. We know the county is going to have to transition into something new.”
While First Due Size Up will not replace a CAD system, the chief says, “it could easily be a piece that plugs into that [new] system. The county manager is not willing to commit money until she sees the evaluation of the system and what those components are, that need to plug in. If First Due is one of those components that gets picked as a needed piece of this program the county, at least to whatever degree, will pick up the bill.”
Whatever the county decides to do, Weaverville Town Attorney Jennifer Jackson has already told Weaverville Town Council, at the last town meeting, that they would not be asked again to be the purchasing agent for the First Due Size Up system.
“The fire departments are paying for it, right now because we feel like its a humongous help to us,” said the chief.