Community Newsletter

Medical Calls Lead Requests for Service
Calls to 9-1-1 for fire department services went up nearly seven percent in the Federal Way area in 2000. Firefighters were called out a total of 9,471 times during the year.
Medical calls continued to be the main reason fire engines and aid cars rolled. 7,193 (76%) of the responses were for illness or injury.
For illness calls, “other illness”— a collection of non-serious ailments—led the list of reasons why people called 9-1-1. Neurological, respiratory and cardiovascular problems followed in frequency. People who fell or were in car crashes were the largest number of trauma patients.
All Federal Way firefighters are also Emergency Medical Technicians and provide basic life support services. Firefighters handled most of the medical calls last year. Paramedics went with firefighters about a third of the time. Those calls involved serious illness or trauma and needed advanced life support services.
The paramedics aren’t part of the Fire Department. They’re with King County Medic One, which covers South King County with seven medic units. For quick response in this area, one of the medic units is stationed at Federal Way Fire Station 64 (on S. 320th east of the freeway).
The best news for 2000: The overall number of fires went up last year (552 fires, an increase of nearly 21 percent), but the number of fires in buildings (123) hit a new low. Thanks for being more careful in your homes and businesses!
Unattended cooking continued to be the main cause of building fires. If all cooks stayed nearby and watched their cooking, it would eliminate a third of all house fires.
As in past years, the most common non-medical response was “false call.” This includes malfunctioning automatic fire alarms or those set off unintentionally, as well as those set off deliberately. Malicious false fire alarms more than doubled (59 in 1999; 143 last year).
The number of brush and grass fires also went up sharply (58 in 1999; 124 last year). Malicious false alarms and brush fires are often caused by youths. This suggests the need to keep a closer eye on what kids are up to—especially during this dry year. (See page 2 for ways to help prevent outdoor fires this summer.)
For more information on fire department activities last year, e-mail info@federalwayfire.org or call 253-946-7246 and ask for a copy of the 2000 Annual Report.

Do You Have a House That We Can Burn?

If you own a building that needs to be torn down, consider donating it for a training burn instead.
The structure must have useful training value for firefighters.  Outbuildings, garages and similar structures not used as a residence can’t be used. Walls and windows need to be pretty much intact, so room fires can be contained. Small commercial buildings can also be considered.
If you have a building you’d like to donate, call the Training Division at 253-529-7209. Training officers will meet with you to evaluate the property.
Mark Your Calendar!
Commissioner Candidate Forum Ever wondered what a Fire Commissioner does? Or thought you’d like to be one?  To run for a position on the Fire Department’s Board of Commissioners, you must file in July. Current commissioners will hold a forum for potential candidates and the public Thursday, June 21, at the Training and Maintenance Station, 1405 S.W. 312th St., immediately following the Board meeting that starts at 4 p.m. The Board’s operating guidelines will be available, and each of the five commissioners will discuss an aspect of the job.
Free Lunch for Senior Citizens Keep safe and stay independent! Learn how to avoid injuries from falls and fires at “Remembering When.” Friday, June 22, 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Banquet Hall of the King County Aquatic Center (650 SW Campus Drive).  Space is limited (and we need to know how many lunches to prepare), so you must sign up in advance. Call 253-952-7910.
Fun Event for Kids
Federal Way and other King County fire departments team up to educate and entertain kids at “Fire Department Day.” Friday, June 22, at the Boeing Museum of Flight (9404 E. Marginal Way South, Seattle), 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. come see us!
FW Fire vs. FW Police Charity Softball Game
     Come and root for your favorite teams (the fire department, of course!). Saturday, July 14, at 1:00 p.m. at Saghalie Junior High School softball field (33914 19th S.W.). Admission is free. Donations go to Federal Way Youth & Family Services.
Where There’s Drought, There’s Fire
Don’t be fooled into thinking that recent rains have solved the “drought emergency” declared by the Governor in March. Skimpy winter rainfall and low snowpack remain a problem as we head into the drier summer months.
Dry summer conditions usually mean more outdoor fires—almost all of which can be prevented. We can’t do much about lightning, but most fires are due to human carelessness.
What can you do to prevent outdoor fires?
Use your ashtray! Lots of fires—especially those along the freeway—are caused by throwing cigarettes out the car window. Also, don’t toss cigarette butts into beauty bark or grass. Even if you think they’re crushed out, they can smolder and start a fire.
Do not burn outdoors (see “The Old Nag”).
Keep an extra-watchful eye on your kids—from age 4 or 5 up to teenage. Many brush fires are caused by kids, sometimes because they’re playing “camping” in wooded or grassy areas. Keep matches, lighters, barbecue or fireplace starters, and any other fire tools out of sight and out of reach.
Fireworks are a fire hazard. Remember that private use of fireworks is illegal at all times within the city limits of Federal Way. In unincorporated King County, they are legal only on July 4th. If you’re in an area where fireworks are legal, use only state-approved fireworks. Some that you can buy at Native American stands are illegal everywhere in the state and are extra dangerous. Only sober adults should light fireworks.
Camp carefully. Build campfires only in approved metal or concrete-lined fire pits in designated campgrounds. Better yet, use a self-contained camp stove instead of building a campfire. Always check with the ranger or fire department in the area where you’re camping to make sure campfires are legal. Never leave your campfire unattended.
n  Don’t stop your vehicle over areas with vegetation. The catalytic converter can be hot enough to ignite dry grass. If your vehicle catches fire and you pull over to the side of the road, don’t pull off the paved shoulder onto the vegetation.
What is the Fire Department doing to conserve water and power?
Obviously, we’re not going to stop using water to put out fires! We are reducing our water use in other ways, however.
w     While drought conditions last, we’ll limit our use of water during firefighter drills. Dry hose drills will be the norm.
w     Testing the pumps on all fire engines, which is required annually and uses thousands of gallons of water, is being done now—earlier in the year than usual—so we won’t have to use all that water during summer months.
w     Firefighters are washing department vehicles only when absolutely needed, rather than cleaning them routinely. We take pride in our equipment and want to keep it in good condition and looking great, but that takes a back seat to our desire to be good citizens during this drought.
w    Grass around stations will be watered only once a week, for half an hour per setting.
w    Dishwashers and washers/dryers will be operated only with a full load.
To conserve power, staff members are using only the lighting that is needed to do the work, and turning off lights when they leave the room. Other power savers include:
w    If computers don’t really need to be on at night, we’re turning them off instead of leaving them running.
w    The heat in the truck bays (where the engines are kept) will be kept between 58 and 60 degrees at all stations. Between June and September, truck bay heaters will be turned off.
w    When we installed new doors on the truck bay at Station 62 (on 1st Ave. S.) and Station 61 (on S. 360th), we opted for insulated doors that will do a better job of keeping heat in the building.
w    The truck bay doors at all six stations are on timers, so after the fire engine rolls out on a call the bay door automatically closes to keep heat in the building.
Could Federal Way have a wildfire?
Wildfires like those in Eastern Washington aren’t likely in Federal Way. But there are some areas where large outdoor fires could be a problem, says Battalion Chief Chuck Kahler.
Chief Kahler, a 30-year veteran, is the only Federal Way chief who holds a state “red card” certifying him as trained in wildland firefighting. About a dozen firefighters also hold red cards. Chief Kahler also took special training to become a member of one of the state’s five Incident Management Teams that can be mobilized to direct wildland firefighting efforts anywhere in the country. Team members come from throughout Oregon and Washington, and only a few are firefighters. Other team members come from the Forest Service and the Department of Natural Resources. 
The most vulnerable areas, Kahler says, are where there is still a lot of natural vegetation and relatively few homes. Examples are Spring Valley (between I-5 and Highway 99 south of S. 356th) and the Five Mile Lake/Trout Lake area (south of S. 360th St. and east of 32nd Ave. S). Any hillside or ravine with natural vegetation could be a problem, such as some of the hillsides above the West Valley Highway and along Adelaide Beach, and ravines in Marine Hills, Twin Lakes, Dash Point and Saltwater Park areas. Brush along the BPA power line trail can also be a hazard. Firefighting in some of these areas is hampered by limited access and few hydrants.
If you have a lot of trees or brush around your home, make sure there’s a fire break—a clear area—between your home and the vegetation. Think about how you would be safe if there were a big fire. Plan an escape route and a safe place to go.
You can help keep an outdoor fire from spreading by keeping dry grass and weeds cut down, especially around buildings, fences and other structures. Consider removing tree limbs growing over the roof, so the house won’t be in danger if the tree catches fire.
Why does Federal Way Fire Department send help when there’s a wildfire in Eastern Washington?
Federal Way Fire Department is part of the State Fire Mobilization Plan. When a fire is too big for one department to handle, the State Fire Marshal asks other departments to send help. The state reimburses fire departments for the costs of equipment and firefighters.
A “strike team” of fire engines is sent from this area. Five departments each send one engine with three or four off-duty firefighters. A chief from one department leads the team. Western Washington firefighters don’t fight the wildfire; they protect homes that are threatened by the wildfire while firefighters from the local area—who are more familiar with wildfire—combat the blaze.
Federal Way has responded to three wildfires in the past few years: to the Prosser area in 2000, to Chelan/Leavenworth in 1994, and Spokane in 1992. Each time, a Federal Way chief served as Strike Team Leader (Battalion Chief Chuck Kahler in 2000 and 1994; Battalion Chief Jerry Thorson in 1992).
Firefighters take their own sleeping bags and tents when they’re mobilized. Sometimes they stay for only a few days (four days in 2000); other times they’re there for an extended period. In 1994, the Federal Way engine was there for two weeks. The first group of firefighters rotated home after one week and others took their place.
The Old Nag
(Stuff we’ve told you before. . .but a lot of you haven’t done anything about it yet.)
Outdoor Burning Is Illegal
The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency banned outdoor burning of yard waste and construction debris in the Federal Way area because the smoke is part of our regional air pollution problem. PSCAA can impose large fines if you violate the ban. Sometimes, due to poor air quality, PSCAA also bans indoor burning in fireplaces and wood stoves. For more information on burn bans, call Puget Sound Clean Air Agency at 1-800-595-4341 or check their web site, www.pscleanair.org.

Medic One Levy Proposed for the November Ballot
The property tax levy that funds the countywide Medic One system expires in December of this year.
That interim three-year emergency medical services (EMS) levy was passed in 1998, after a six-year levy failed to get the 60 percent “yes” vote required by law. Two Task Forces were appointed to look for other ways to fund the EMS system. They concluded that other options don’t provide enough money to maintain the system and allow it to meet growing needs. The second Task Force recommended that a new six-year property tax levy be put on the ballot in November.
The proposed levy is 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, the same amount that is currently being collected. The owner of a home assessed at $100,000 would continue to pay $25 a year for Medic One services. The proposed levy is not a new tax; it would just replace the current one.
Cities with a population over 50,000 (Federal Way, Seattle, Kent, Renton, Bellevue, and Shoreline) must authorize King County to put the measure on the ballot, and the County Council must agree to do so.
Most of the levy funds would be used to continue providing Medic One services. Currently there are 22 paramedic units located countywide. Seven of those units serve South King County, with one of them stationed in Federal Way.
Fire departments throughout King County also receive some money from the levy to help pay for basic emergency medical programs. The Federal Way Fire Department receives approximately $568,000 per year from the EMS levy. The levy also provides training for paramedics, firefighter-EMTs, and 9-1-1 dispatchers.
The Seattle Fire Department established Medic One—one of the world’s first paramedic systems—in 1969. In 1977, the paramedic system was expanded to include South King County. The Seattle/King County EMS system is regarded as a model system worldwide.
The full EMS Strategic Task Force report is available online at http://www.metrokc.gov/health/ems/taskforce. You can also call 253-946-7247 and ask for a copy.
That Wasn’t “The Big One”
The Nisqually earthquake on February 28 was the worst earthquake in the Puget Sound in 52 years, but it wasn’t “the big one” that has been predicted.
We lucked out, folks. It was 6.8 on the Richter scale, but did relatively little damage. That’s because it was so deep (about 30 miles below the surface). Had it been shallower— like the 6.7 quake in 1994 in Northridge, California, that was about 10 miles deep—damage would have been much worse. And had it been an   8.0-9.0 quake like some that have happened in Puget Sound’s history, the area would have been devastated.
Don’t let the “mildness” of this quake lull you into thinking you don’t have to bother about being prepared. Learn what you need to do before, during, and after a quake. Call 253-946-7246 and ask to have a packet of emergency preparedness materials mailed to you.
Surfing the Net
If you don’t have internet access at home, you can go on line at King County Library branches. Be sure to visit our home page, http://www.federalwayfire.org.
http://www.cpsc.gov - Hundreds of products are recalled each year because they may cause fires or injuries, but many of them are still in homes. Check Consumer Product Safety Commission files, and sign up for e-mail notification when products are recalled.
http://www.homefiresprinkler.org -  Do you know the most effective way to protect your home and family once a fire starts?    It’s having fire sprinklers in your home. Watch a chilling fire timeline video and check out the facts about fire sprinklers. 
http://www.sparky.org - Sparky the Fire Dog has his own web page for kids six to nine! Fun games entertain them while they learn fire safety and injury prevention messages.
9-1-1:  Use It, But Don’t Abuse It
It might seem like the 9-1-1 emergency telephone number has always been around, but the first local 9-1-1 system wasn’t set up until 1968 (in Alabama). About 50 percent of the U.S. population had 9-1-1 by 1987.  Now, 9-1-1 is available to nearly 85 percent.
When 9-1-1 began, the main problem was to let people know the number was available and get them to use it. Now, the main problem is to get them to stop using it inappropriately.
9-1-1 is partly a victim of its own publicity. To get people used to the idea, some 9-1-1 centers used slogans such as “it’s the only number you need to know.” What they meant was that you didn’t have to remember one number for the police, another for the fire department, and a third for medical help. You can get all those services by one number. What some people have apparently heard, however, was that any time you have a problem—any kind of problem—9-1-1 is the number to dial.
9-1-1 was created to be used in emergencies, but the concept of “emergency” seems to have gotten lost. Non-emergency calls to 9-1-1 are a problem both locally and nationally.
Some calls to 9-1-1 are inappropriate because they’re for things that police, fire or medical personnel don’t handle. If your power is out, you need to call the power company. If the sink is overflowing or your sewer line is plugged up, you need a plumber. If your cookstove or furnace won’t operate, dial a repair service. If you have bees in the house, an exterminator is the appropriate choice. If you have a toothache, see your dentist. (Yes, all of those have been real calls to our 9-1-1 dispatch center.)
Other calls are inappropriate because they don’t involve urgent needs. Every time Firefighters and Paramedics go on a medical call, they fill out a report. One of the questions on that report asks whether the problem was “life threatening,” “urgent” or “non-urgent.” Each year, nearly one-half of the medical calls dispatched by 9-1-1 in King County come back marked as being for a “non‑urgent” condition.
Part of this problem is that some callers call for things that a knowledge of simple first aid could fix—problems people used to handle themselves, or ask a family member, neighbor or family doctor about. A small cut on the hand didn’t used to be considered a 9-1-1 problem. Now, it increasingly is. A simple bee sting—with no history of allergy and no hives, breathing problems or any other symptoms—didn’t used to trigger a call to 9-1-1. Now, it often does. A child’s bumped head, without even a bruise or swelling, wasn’t considered something that emergency medical services should respond to. Now, parents often call 911. Some people have even called 9-1-1 for things like cold sores, blisters, or diaper rash, or because they are out of bandaids or want an aspirin.
Another part of the problem may be lack of understanding of what 9-1-1 responders can and cannot do. Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics are not doctors, and they can't substitute for them. And if you just have a cold or the flu, there’s not much that calling 9-1-1 can achieve for you.
What’s wrong with calling 9-1-1 when it’s not a true emergency? The first and biggest problem is that it ties up emergency resources. It can delay response to those who truly do have emergencies. Someone having a heart attack or stroke may have to wait for help to come from across town, because the firefighters closest to them are tied up dealing with someone’s minor problem. In December of last year, a family in Tacoma watched their house burn because they couldn’t get through on overcrowded 9-1-1 lines.
A second reason to limit use of 9-1-1 to emergencies is that using it for everything drives up the costs for staff and equipment to respond to all those calls. Those costs are borne by every one of us through our property taxes.
What can you do to help prevent 9-1-1 overload?
w  Take a first aid class. Purchase a health care handbook, so you’ll know how to deal with minor problems.
w     If you have children, take parenting classes so you will recognize and be able to deal with a child’s normal developmental problems.
w     If someone tells you they called 9-1-1 for something that isn’t an emergency, let them know that you disapprove of that behavior.
w  And stop for just a second before you call 9-1-1 yourself.  Ask yourself whether your call is appropriate. If not, seek other methods to solve it.
However, if you have any doubt about whether you have an emergency that requires fire, police or medical services, call 9-1-1! That’s what it’s there for. Let’s all cooperate to keep it working well.
Q & A--Readers ask . . .
Where can I take a CPR class?
The Federal Way Fire Department offers CPR classes every month. Some are for people who just want to learn CPR and get some practice in it. Others are for people who need a more extensive class to meet work requirements. Are you thinking about an automatic defibrillator for your business? If you are, we offer state-approved CPR/AED training for your employees. For information, check our CPR Information Line, 253-529-7203.
Where can I buy smoke alarms? What kind should I buy?
Many types of stores sell smoke alarms, including hardware stores and some drug stores. Are you replacing detectors that are wired into your home’s electrical system? If you are, replace them with electric detectors with a backup battery. If you’re getting battery-operated detectors, basic ones don’t cost much—usually only about $5-$10. If you don’t want to have to replace batteries every year, get an alarm with a 10-year lithium battery. You need to replace the entire smoke alarm about every 10 years anyway.
One feature to consider is a “hush” or reset button. They’re especially useful if the alarm is going to be near the kitchen or bathroom. The reset button lets you silence the alarm if it’s going off because the toast burned or steam from the shower set it off. The alarm automatically resets itself after a few minutes. If there is a fire during the “hush” time, heavy smoke will override the reset button so the detector will sound an alarm.
Safety Alert—Window Blinds Recalled
Millions of window blinds have been recalled because their pull cords and the inner cords used to raise the slats are a strangulation hazard for children.
130 children have been strangled by window blind cords since 1991. All of the deaths involved children in cribs placed near windows. They pulled the pull cords or inner cords until they formed a loop that became wrapped around their necks. Window blinds were redesigned in 1995 to eliminate pull cords ending in loops. However, the inner cords of these newer blinds still present a hazard.
You can repair your window blinds in minutes, without removing the blinds. Call the Window Covering Safety Council at 800-506-4636 to get a free repair kit for each set of blinds in your home. If you have vertical blinds, draperies or pleated shades with continuous loop cords, ask for special tie-downs to prevent strangulation in those window coverings.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission recommends that you keep the cords and chains of window coverings out of the reach of children. Consider that they may climb on furniture to reach the cords. Never knot or tie the cords together—this creates a loop that could cause strangulation. If you have young children, consider purchasing cordless window coverings.

No comments:

Post a Comment