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Fire engines, ambulances respond to CSU campus one to three times every day

A Poudre Fire Authority engine responds to East Drive. (Photo by Julia Rentsch)
A Poudre Fire Authority engine responds to East Drive April 11. (Photo by Julia Rentsch.)

Flashing lights, police cars and groups waiting for reentry to campus buildings at Colorado State are sights common enough to raise little alarm from students, employees and visitors on campus any weekday. 

According to an estimate by CSU public relations officer Dell Rae Ciaravola, fire engines or ambulances visit campus between one and three times per day. For those curious about the breakdown of these numbers, here’s the analysis.

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Between Feb. 1, 2015 and Feb. 1, 2016, this added up to 323 ambulance visits and 571 fire engine visits, according to data obtained from CSUPD and the Poudre Fire Authority.  

From this data, it may seem that the aggregate number, totaling 894 responses, would represent the campus on a yearly basis, but this is not at all true — most times an ambulance responds to campus, a fire truck arrives as well, so overlap occurs. 

According to Captain Jay Klassen of the Poudre Fire Authority, the reason for this is to allow a three-person engine team to provide support and assistance to a two-person ambulance team, and vice versa. PFA data from the past year indicate that 76 percent of fire engine visits to campus are due to medical calls, which roughly equates to the 74 percent of PFA’s total jurisdiction calls for assistance that are medical in nature.

“The idea is … (in an emergency), it’s kind of a two-tier system — we get there and we provide basic life support, and then we assist them with advanced life support,” Klassen said. “The idea is that we work together … it’s been set up that way since we started Poudre Fire Authority back in 1981.”

Chart by Julia Rentsch
(Chart by Julia Rentsch.)

Some situations, however, do allow a fire engine or ambulance to respond alone.

“Ambulances may be dispatched alone for an omega medical call,” PFA public relations officer Madeline Noblett wrote in an email to the Collegian. “An example of that is if a student goes to the CSU health center sick and the staff there determines they need to go to the hospital for further treatment.”

Fire engines may respond to a scene alone for lower-level incidents, Noblett wrote. Examples of these situations include a carbon monoxide alarm going off, a dumpster fire or lower-level hazardous spill clean-up, such as oil from a motor vehicle accident without injuries. 

Ciaravola cautioned that the count of 323 ambulance responses applies only to visits to the University’s campus.

“This number doesn’t include incidents off campus or on adjoining streets which may appear to be on campus but are not related, such as car accidents on College Avenue that would require an ambulance and fire response,” Ciaravola wrote in an email to the Collegian.

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According to Klassen, the number of PFA responses to fire alarms on campus has decreased significantly in past years after the installation of the keyless electronic entry systems to certain campus buildings, including residence halls. These systems read an identification number from each proximity key that is swiped for entry, so they automatically tie a person’s name to their swiping time and location. 

“Many, many, many years ago, a lot of them were more malicious-tied — people going into one dorm and pulling a fire alarm or doing something, where now everything is tied to who’s getting in, ” Klassen said. “So the days of having fun, or whatever you want to call it … that’s drastically changed for the better.”

Only about 7 percent of PFA responses to the CSU campus in the past year were caused by a fire alarm, PFA data show. Of these 42 instances, nine were fire alarms related to cooking or burnt food, two were malicious activations and another two were from active fire or smoke, Noblett wrote.

According to their 2014 annual report, which contains the most recent data, PFA has overall experienced a yearly increase in call volume over the past 10 years. According to the 2015 PFA Strategic Plan, the entire PFA district has a population of approximately 192,000 people.

Responses from the fire department to campus are most likely to occur on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with peak hours of response at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m., data from PFD show.

“That’s when the buildings are likely to be the most occupied,” Noblett wrote.

Collegian Reporter Julia Rentsch can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @julia_rentsch.

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