Strongsville's 25 square miles makes it the second largest city in land area in Cuyahoga County, with the City of Cleveland being the largest. The master plan for Strongsville calls for having a fire station in each of the city's four wards with the objective to lower the emergency response time to every point in the city.
The need for rapid response
Approximately 70% of emergency responses (911 calls) in the City of Strongsville are medical in nature. When breathing stops (heart attack, seizure, stroke, electrocution etc.), brain cells begin to die. For a heart attack patient whose heart has stopped due to an ineffective electrical rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation, the only effective intervention is delivery of an electrical shock with a defibrillator, augmented by the administration of cardiac medications carried on all Strongsville fire apparatus. Rapid intervention is vital for positive patient viability and recovery.
A significant event that occurs at a structure fire is a phenomenon known as flashover. Flashover is defined as "that stage of a fire at which all surfaces and objects within a space have been heated to their ignition temperature and flame breaks out almost at once over the surface of all objects in the space.” Flashover is a critical stage of fire growth for two reasons. First, it is impossible for anyone in the involved space to survive. Second, flashover creates a quantum leap in the rate of combustion. A post-flashover fire burns hotter and moves faster, compounding search and rescue problems in the remainder of the structure and requiring more firefighters for the attack. A point of significance is that the time from a fire’s incipient stage to flashover can be as little as five minutes.
Victims of fire are almost always overcome by smoke before flames threaten them. Heated fire gases spread throughout the structure, displacing oxygen and making survival impossible. Approximately 75% of all fire deaths are due to smoke inhalation. Once a victim is overcome with smoke, rescuers have 4-6 minutes to affect a rescue and begin resuscitation efforts if there is to be a chance for a positive outcome.
If the time between ignition, detection and reporting increases, the need for a quick response to an alarm becomes even more critical.
A common term that is used in the evaluation of fire departments is “level of service”. The level of service provided in any jurisdiction is determined by decisions made regarding distribution and concentration of resources. These decisions must be made with the potential level of risk in mind. Distribution refers to the location of fire department resources while concentration refers to staffing levels and equipment available at those locations. Risk factors in our system include both fire behavior and predicted medical outcomes. While it is unreasonable to expect the fire department to save every life or stop all significant property loss, it is reasonable to seek to find a balance that will keep fire and medical risk at a reasonable level. That balance should ideally yield the maximum savings of life and property at a reasonable cost.