Detroit Fire Truck

(Photo: WWJ/Mike Campbell)

Debate Rages Over Detroit Fire Department Policy That Prioritizes Responses

The city says the policy aims to cut down on accidents involving trucks that are using lights and sirens

October 15, 2018 - 5:56 pm

DETROIT (WWJ) -- A debate rages on between the city of Detroit and the Detroit Firefighters Association, as a new policy calls for firetrucks to only use lights and sirens on top priority runs.

The city says the policy aims to cut down on accidents involving trucks that are using lights and sirens, saying nation-wide research shows that such policy helps cut down on such accidents.

According to a shared bulletin from the office of the Detroit Fire Department's commissioner, lights and sirens are to be used for Code 1 runs, which include "incidents which indicate an urgent and/or life-threatening emergency." Meanwhile, Code 2 responses are "incidents or service calls which indicate immediate response is needed, but responding vehicles shall not use lights and/or sirens."

Mike Nevin, president of the Detroit Firefighters Association, says the policy makes no sense to him because it is difficult to classify an emergency before you’re at the scene.

Nevin claims the policy is not only endangering the public, but it's also endangering some first responders. A recent ambulance crew was assaulted because of poor response time, according to Nevin.

“They were punched numerous times," Nevin said of the crew that took 15 minutes to arrive to the scene of a cardiac arrest.

Nevin claims the EMS unit was on a Code 2 run, but city officials say that claiming response time is slowed is "unconscionable" and "untrue." A spokesman for the mayor’s office said code 2 is mostly used for things like hose-downs and follow-up calls and not for EMS.

Nevin is skeptical that the policy is due to a high number of accidents involving firetrucks.

“They said we had 17 accidents last year. Produce the accidents," he said.

Union officials say they can’t improve the response time because they’re being denied access to records.

The mayor’s office says the records are not public due to federal health privacy laws.

Nevin says the policy delaying the runs is only compounding a problem caused by the boarding up of fire stations.

“We’ve got civilians dragging their loved ones to neighbors’ cars because they can’t get there in time.”