Firefighters Union says city saving money at the cost of safety - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

Firefighters Union says city saving money at the cost of safety

 By: Bill Schammert

The Lincoln Firefighters Association and the city have been at odds for the past few months. The issue: a pick-up truck now used for medical responses at Station One. The city says it's in a testing phase, but association president Ron Trouba says it's saving money at the cost of safety.

"When a safe and proven method of emergency response takes a backseat to short-sided desires to reduce spending on public safety, these kind of incidents are the predictable result," he said. 

On May 12th, Fire Chief John Huff issued an order that the Automated Response Vehicle or ARV, to be used on all medical-only related calls at Station One. Director of Public Safety Tom Casady says since that day, it's gone out 490 times. 

International Association of Firefighters Local 644 has filed a grievance. 

Trouba cites a July 3rd incident when a victim fell off the Pedestrian Bridge into the train yard just north of Memorial Stadium. The ARV was used, but didn't have the necessary tools to break through or climb over the fence blocking the area. 

"They had to call dispatch and request an actual fire truck be sent with the appropriate equipment," Trouba said. 

He says it took 20 minutes from the time the first call came in, until the victim, still in critical condition, was taken to the hospital. But, Public SSafelyDirector Tom Casady says that could've been solved with one simple addition.

"A few steps away was a gate with a padlock," Casady said. "A pair of 14-inch bolt cutters would've cut that pad lock." 

Casady says it's in a testing phase and these are the types of things they need to learn to better equip ARVs.

The current ARV isn't as fuel-efficient as Casady would've liked, but he says there's already a request for an upgrade. He believes the new experimental tool can decrease fuel cost, but more importantly, is much cheaper to purchase and maintain than a fire engine or fire truck.

Both sides agree, it's part of a much bigger problem - aging vehicles and equipment that need replaced. Casady says the city is still trying to rebound from the financial crisis of 2008 that hit so many municipalities. He says ARVs could save money without sacrificing safety, money that could be used on equipment and to help replenish a depleted pension fund.

Trouba says the issue has now gone to arbitration and will likely be decided by a third party mediator.

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