NEWS FROM SOUTH COUNTY FIRE
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Winter storm: South County Fire planned ahead to deal with slick roads and an increase in 911 calls
South County Fire saw a 25 percent increase in 911 calls over five days during last week’s winter storm.
The department operates 14 neighborhood fire stations to serve more than 250,000 residents in Brier, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace and unincorporated south Snohomish County.
South County Fire’s busiest day was Feb. 12 when firefighters responded to 150 calls, an increase of 74 percent over the department’s daily average of 86 calls. “The first few days weren’t as busy as people heeded warnings to stay inside and stay off the road. On Feb. 12 we had heavy snow fall on top of the snow that had already accumulated. That’s when we started to see trees and power lines come down,” said Assistant Fire Chief Doug Dahl.
South County Fire prepared for the National Weather Service forecast winter storm warnings and heavy snow conditions for Feb. 8-12 by developing 12- and 24-hour incident action plans and adding staffing to increase emergency response capabilities. Overtime totaled nearly 370 hours at an estimated cost of $27,000.
The department also set up its Fire Operations Center, which remained in stand-by until Feb. 12 when it was activated to prioritize and ease dispatch the heavy volume of non-emergent 911 service calls such as arcing powerlines and downed trees. South County Fire also participated in the county’s emergency coordination center and joint information system.
Heavy snow and treacherous road conditions meant firefighters had to reconsider how to access some 911 calls. “Crews plan different routes in anticipation of possible road closures and terrain. Your most direct route might be different in the snow and ice,” Dahl said.
Sports utility vehicles normally used as command units were pressed into service to shuttle patients to medic units in areas where steep roads or driveways were impassable without 4-wheel drive.
While snow storms like this aren’t the norm, they underscore the need for residents to be prepared for natural disasters. South County Fire’s website, www.southsnofire.org/prepare , offers resources to help. For those interested in learning how to help during a disaster, Community Emergency Response Team classes begin in March. More information and online registration is available at www.southsnofire.org/CERT.