Jan. 25--Oneonta firefighters responded to 3,220 calls last year, marking the second-busiest year in the department's history, the fire chief said Thursday.
The busiest year was 2011, when crews responded to 3,261 calls, Chief Patrick Pidgeon said. Demands continue increasing for emergency medical care, he said, and training is underway to meet higher standards.
Pidgeon presented a year-end report to the Common Council on Tuesday night and reviewed topics including staffing, overtime, training and types of calls.
The response tally reflects all types of calls within the city, to the town of Oneonta and to other sites on a mutual aid basis, the report said. The call types include fires, automobile accidents, hazardous situations and ambulances.
Of calls last year, 2,458 were for emergency medical services, which represented about 77 percent of total calls, Pidgeon said. There were 108 motor vehicle accidents and 58 fire responses.
Last year, crews responded to about the same number of calls as the previous year -- 3,220 to 3,118. In 2011, the busiest year on record, the department responded to 3,261 calls.
Pidgeon attributed the increase in part to restoration of some ambulance service after he became chief on Jan. 1, 2010. Under a previous policy, the city only provided transportation to A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta, he said, but now crews will take patients to other hospitals as well.
The Oneonta Fire Department has 35 firefighters and may hire another soon, Pidgeon said. Crews work 24-hour shifts, and the staffing ranks include five part-time firefighters and three call firefighters, plus a dispatcher.
The department's budget for 2014 is $3.35 million, up from the adopted budget of $3.14 million in 2013, he said.
Pidgeon said the department's overtime budget last year decreased by about 30 percent. He attributed the drop to implementing a plan to hire part-time firefighters to be scheduled to work instead of hiring more-costly career firefighters.
The plan also provides opportunities for part-timers to gain experience and be part of a "feeder system" that supplies candidates for vacancies, Pidgeon said. The system was among recommendations that resulted from the mayor's task force to study issues in the department.
Several years ago, the department had about 10 part-time firefighters, which shrunk to three a year ago, Pidgeon said.
Meanwhile, more crews are being trained to prepare advanced life support on emergency calls, Pidgeon said. All firefighters are trained to provide basic life support, such as using a defibrillator and administering oxygen, he said.
But under the current union contract, all firefighters hired between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2015, must acquire ALS certification. ALS crews can start intravenous lines and give medications, among other critical care procedures, Pidgeon said, and the advanced training helps the department reach a goal of taking emergency room services to patients.
Pidgeon said 14 career firefighters are ALS certified, as are three of the five part-timers.
"We are preparing for that continuing need," he said.
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