JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — The Johns Creek City Council voted 4-3 to move forward with designs for a new fire station, while leaving the possibility of an alternative — quick response vehicles — on the table.
The council was set to vote Oct. 8 on a contract for design of Fire Station 64, a new facility located at 4795 Kimball Bridge Road. At the request of Councilman John Bradberry, they agreed to postpone the vote by two weeks to give staff time to research a potential alternative.
One alternative includes quick response vehicles (QRVs), also known as fast response vehicles. These vehicles are trucks smaller than traditional fire engines that typically carry two firefighters and emergency medical equipment. Johns Creek has two QRVs that operate out of stations 61 and 63.
Bradberry argued roaming QRVs could address slow response times throughout the city at a lower cost than the proposed $4 million fire station, which would mostly service the northwest parts of the city.
However, the staff report presented at the Oct. 22 meeting showed long term QRVs would cost significantly more, mostly due to personnel costs. Because QRV officers would be patrolling, rather than at the station waiting for a call, more staff would be needed to provide breaks and rest time for the officers. Furthermore, the vehicles would need to be replaced every 3 to 5 years, while a fire station is a one-time capital expense.
“Despite the staff memo, I continue to believe that there is a great value proposition to the QRV if we are trying to address the environment in which 1.5 percent of our responses are fire, and of those, only a third are structure fires,” Bradberry said.
In addition to the questions about costs, there were concerns over the effectiveness of QRVs, which could respond faster to an incident than officers at a traditional station. However, many emergencies require more than two officers responding for best outcomes.
“How effective can two people do CPR?” Fire Chief Jeff Hogan said. “You just can’t do it. It will wear you out in a matter of minutes. So that’s why the bigger trucks come. They come for manpower.”
Hogan, as well as Councilman Steve Broadbent who has a background in EMS, explained the equipment used in cardiac emergencies. Hogan said in the medical emergencies the fire department responds to, more than two people were needed “greater than most of the time.”
Ultimately, Mayor Mike Bodker and council members Broadbent, Jay Lin and Lenny Zaprowski voted to move forward with the fire station designs, with Chris Coughlin, Stephanie Endres and Bradberry opposing.
“I’m confident of the need for station 64,” Broadbent said. “The QRV by itself is not going to solve the problem. It may be a band-aid or an adjunct that can be overlaid, but in the end we need a fixed fire station.”
Council members on both sides said they would support a pilot program to gather more information on QRVs, noting if, after more data was gathered, the council decided the QRVs would be a better solution, the city would only be out the $216,800 for the designs.
“Even if this council moves forward on the fourth fire station … the FRV may prove to be either a better way to run our current QRVs, one or more of our current QRVs, or may in fact be the way that we solve the other 50 percent [of slow response times in the city],” Bodker said.
The city staff recommended experimenting with the two existing QRVs on a patrol model rather than a fixed-location response. The possibility of experimenting with the city’s ambulance response was also considered.