New ambulance costs $260K and must negotiate all kinds of terrain
Presenting to the Joint Capital Planning Committee his $442,250 total capital budget request this morning Amherst Fire Department Chief Tim Nelson assumed a somber tone we he got to the next-to-the-last item on the list: "Never in my life would I ever expect to ask for this ... but we live in a different world now."
Assistant Chiefs McKay and Stromgren (left & right) Chief Nelson (center)
The $17,500 item(s) he was requesting?
Ten bullet proof vests and helmets, one each for two ambulance personnel in all five AFD ambulances. And yes this request was in the pipeline long before the recent weapon incident that sent UMass into lockdown.
But that incident certainly reinforced the sobering notion expressed by Chief Nelson that "It's going to happen here."
Assistant Chief McKay told the Committee that AFD has been training active shooter scenarios with UMass PD since 2002 (after Columbine) and since 2006 with APD.
These days protocols have changed somewhat in that rather than keeping FD in a "cold zone" where they are safe and protected until police have secured the area, the current idea is for PD to make a "dynamic entry" and clear part of a building so FD can then move in and stage in that "warm zone".
Because obviously the quicker medical experts can get to a victim the more likely they can do something to save a life. But yes, at risk to their own lives.
The bullet proof vests would stay in the ambulance so they will get way less use than the ones worn by police officers daily, thus this request for 10 vests should be good for twenty years or more.
Our other equally vital public safety department, APD, had only two requests, both somewhat big ticket items totaling $315,000. The usual request for four new vehicles -- Ford utility Interceptors at $35,000 each -- and new portable radios for the entire department.
Chief Livingstone (left) Captain Pronovost (right)
The front line patrol vehicles are run 24/7 with plenty of stop and go under all sorts of negative circumstances. Next year (FY18) they will replace three cruisers but the price is going up about $5,000 per vehicle. While the radios are all over 20 years old so parts are hard to come by.
The last thing you want is for an officer responding to a life-and-death emergency being slowed by a vehicle break down. And officer safety is compromised if their hand held radio should fail when they are in the field.
Our public safety departments -- Police, Fire and Dispatch -- cost $10 million in total operation budgets this year so these two department requests of $757,250 works out to under 8% of total budget.
Currently the Joint Capital Planning Committee uses 8% of the town's total budget for capital equipment/building/facilities spending, or $3.15 million. Requests from all departments total $3.34 million, so cuts will have to be made.
Hopefully not from Police or Fire.
Masslive catches up to this story (Can the Gazette be far behind?)