by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:
ATLANTA - Some Atlanta firefighters believe the units closest to emergency calls are not always the ones dispatched, and they believe that could put public safety at risk.
The Atlanta Fire Department adamantly refutes that claim, saying their response to service is based on an abundance of hard data and research.
"In an emergency, seconds count,” said Stephen Borders with the Atlanta Professional Firefighters Union.
Borders said dispatch is not always sending the closest piece of the equipment to calls for service. He said he's heard that continuously from fellow firefighters.
"Especially in a downtown area, one to two miles, you're looking at three to four to five minutes, in heavy traffic,” he told Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh.
Borders says problems lie with the department’s mapping of response districts that determine who responds where.
There's a system for firefighters to report their response concerns. Channel 2 Action News obtained several copies of what's known as an Atlanta Fire Request for Service.
In one report, a firefighter wrote his unit was closer in distance and had a shorter drive time. Another wrote their station was closer and had an easier mode of travel. This firefighter was concerned the nearest unit wasn't dispatched to a call at a college dormitory. One firefighter claimed his unit passed by closer units while responding to a call. In frustration he wrote, “I just give up.”
Atlanta Fire Assistant Chief Bernard Coxton said that for the first time in 20 years, the Atlanta Fire Department redrew their response maps. They were fully implemented in January after rigorous research, Coxton said.
“It’s not about who’s the closest. It’s who has the best response time to get there,” Coxton said.
Coxton said the department welcomes firefighters' reports to improve the system.
"We want to get as much help there as fast as we can,” Borders said.