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Working with New Berlin could trim fire response times

Agreement would effect southeast portion of city

Feb. 28, 2012

When the city of Brookfield's Fire Station No. 3 moved to Moorland Road and Greenfield Avenue, emergency response times to the southeast end of the city increased.

Brookfield Fire Chief Charlie Myers wants to change that, and says sharing responses with New Berlin could shave one to two minutes off the wait for an ambulance or fire truck for residents in that area, as well as reduce some response times in New Berlin.

A proposed intergovernmental agreement between the cities was discussed last week by the Human Resources and Public Safety Committee.

Borderless response

The agreement specifically targets areas along Greenfield Avenue, including the southeast corner of Brookfield, mainly serviced by the city's Fire Station 3, and the northwest side of New Berlin, mainly serviced by its Fire Station 2.

The agreement specifies that Brookfield's Fire Station 3 would automatically respond to calls on the northwestern side of New Berlin, and New Berlin's Fire Station 2 would do so for calls to the southeast corner of Brookfield, thereby improving response times for both communities, Myers explained.

Both fire departments would respond to emergency medical services calls in those areas, with the first department on the scene initiating care and staying until a transfer of care can occur, he said. The majority of the time, the home fire department would take the patient to the hospital, if needed. However, if New Berlin personnel take a Brookfield resident to the hospital, that resident will be charged New Berlin's resident rate, and vice-versa. Without the agreement, a nonresident rate applies, and that means more money out of the resident's pocket, Myers said.

The two communities "are within dollars" of each other's resident rate, he said.

Limited reach

The agreement would only be in effect for certain portions of the two communities.

"These are very select areas; they're not far-reaching, and they're designed so that the compatibility of the number of calls is the same so that we don't overtax one more than the other," Myers said.

Additionally, the communities provide similar emergency medical service levels, with two paramedics staffing each ambulance, Myers said. They communicate regularly and already provide mutual aid to one another through the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System.

Typically New Berlin and Brookfield share resources through MABAS for large-scale incidents, Myers said. The difference with this agreement is that mutual aid would be occurring regularly, without one community having to call the other each time for assistance.

To help facilitate the agreement, training would be conducted to familiarize each department with the others' equipment, and to review, compare and practice their respective procedures.

Other operations that will need to be evaluated and adjusted in order to successfully implement the agreement include dispatch, communications and billing rates. The agreement could be modified between the fire departments as needed to address any changes that may occur over time, Myers said.

"It really is a win-win," Alderman Gary Mahkorn said. "I see this community gaining so much from it. And it's not a 99-year contract, where if it's not working out for us, it's not some kind of lifetime situation here."

More discussion needed

The New Berlin Common Council already approved the cooperative agreement.

"It's what's right," New Berlin Fire Chief Lloyd Bertram said. "If it's your loved one who's in trouble, do you care what name is on the ambulance as long as the people inside are trained at the same level? Wouldn't you want people to come the soonest?"

Not all Brookfield officials, however, were fully convinced of the arrangement's merit.

"Aren't we essentially doubling the calls that we're sending out our men and equipment to?" questioned Alderwoman Lisa Mellone, who does not serve on the committee.

Currently, the Brookfield Fire Department often responds to emergency medical calls with an ambulance and a fire engine to ensure adequate staffing, Myers explained. This arrangement would eliminate the need to also send a fire engine to EMS calls in the area of Brookfield targeted by the agreement.

Mellone also requested that additional information be provided about the transport rates charged by each community.

Other aldermen who don't serve on the committee also attended the meeting, and some expressed the desire for further discussion on the issue.

Alderman Bill Carnell worried that the arrangement seems cumbersome, with too much room for error, and indicated he was not comfortable with moving the agreement forward.

Additionally, other areas of Brookfield that currently have longer response times are not being addressed by the agreement, Alderman Renee Lowerr noted, requesting that the discussion be tabled in order to address remaining concerns.

The committee voted 3-1 to table the measure, with Committee Chairman Bob Reddin voting against the motion.

BY THE NUMBERS

150

approximate number of calls annually in the targeted area of Brookfield

140

approximate number of calls annually in the targeted area of New Berlin

75

percentage of calls, for both areas, that are EMS-related

25

percentage of calls, for both areas, that require fire response

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