August 31: Getting to Know the Inter-Workings of the Madison Fire Department

–submitted by Rich Leffler

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Our speaker on August 31 was Chief of the Madison Fire Department Chris Carbon. (His grandfather, Max Carbon, was, for many years, a member of our club.) He offered a general overview of the Department, noting that there are 35,000 requests for service every year; the vast majority of which are not to put out fires. The department has many special-service teams to handle the different kinds of service people require. He emphasized two. The Community Paramedic Program aims to identify peoples’ needs and to build relationships with the public. There is a partnership with UW Health and Meriter. One of the primary goals is to reduce return visits to the ER and enable greater independence of patients. 

The CARE program is a collaboration with the police to deal with mental-health crises. In non-violent situations, mental health professionals and paramedics try to resolve the situation. Calls for this service have increased since its inception; there have been 900 calls so far. An analysis is going on to determine how well the program is working. 

This fall, the department will begin a recruitment process. One hope is to improve the diversity of the department: the goal is to recruit people who are compassionate and understand the complexity of the Madison community. In response to a question about how to inspire Latinx and other minority people to become fire fighters, Chief Carbon said that the recruiting team will seek to establish partnerships with community groups to help in the effort, and he invited the questioner to meet with him to talk further. 

The Chief had to leave at 12:45pm, and Assistant Chief Ché Stedman continued answering questions. He said that response teams of health professionals and paramedics were key to dealing with people suffering from dementia; to resolve a critical situation; and to know how to find additional help. The most challenging calls were those involving children in distress. He explained that fire fighters work two consecutive twenty-four-hour shifts per week, which leaves time for family and also for socializing with the families of their colleagues. He explained that when a crisis involves an armed person, that becomes a matter for the police to handle. But of the 900 calls for the CARE program, only two percent of the cases required police action. 

This was a terrifically informative and encouraging program. Not only did the Chiefs explain the department, but they also gave evidence that they and their colleagues were public servants truly dedicated to serving the people of Madison.

NOTE: This week’s Rotary meeting was not videotaped.

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