Home Brentwood Brentwood Candidate on Wrong Side of Fire First Response

Brentwood Candidate on Wrong Side of Fire First Response

by ECT

Ben Whitener shared a recent conversation he had with Brentwood City Council candidate Carissa Pillow who is apparently urging ECCFPD to stop responding to all of its medical calls. While she is entitled to this opinion, ultimately this type of thinking is dangerous and puts folks in Brentwood and the District at greater risk during an emergency.

I’ve spoken to her on several occasions and we always seem butt heads on the fire first response issue, while on other issues we very much agree. It’s not that she has an overall poor platform she is running on or is a poor candidate–there have been much worse,  she and I simply disagree on leaving engines in the station. With that said, it might ultimately be a deal breaker for myself and many others based on the final list of candidates.

What is troubling me is a candidate has taken such a poor position that jeopardizes the public safety of the  people she wants to represent when most of the research is heavily against her proposal of not having fire engines respond to medical. Fire first response is an asset to the community and part of the county plan which experts have tweaked over the years to ensure residents of the County reserve the best possible care in an emergency situation in as quickest time possible.

Here is the conversation that Ben Whitener wrote out:

Via Facebook post by Ben Whitener:

So after the conclusion of last night’s ECCFPD Fire Board meeting, one of the candidates for Brentwood City Council told me that she does not feel that it is appropriate that our fire engines respond to medical calls. I was floored and dumbfounded all at once! Especially since I live in Brentwood and do not want our Fire/EMS service cut any further than it already has been.

I attempted to discuss the issue with her by stating that two paramedics on an ambulance already have enough going on when it comes to taking care of a moderately to critically ill patient, and having three additional personnel available to assist really helps, and provides for a more positive patient outcome.

She responded by stating that not every call requires a firefighter to perform CPR. I could not believe that was the only thing she could come up with! I then realized that she has a very narrow focus/idea of what firefighters do on medical calls. After I brought up various cases where having more than just ambulance based paramedics on scene really makes a difference in patient care, she informed me that there are members of the public that side with her like that was supposed to make it medical fact.

I guess I could have chosen my words a bit differently, but I stated that most members of the public are ignorant as to what firefighters do on medical calls. I did not mean that in a negative way, but just what the definition of ignorant states.

Maybe I should have used the word uninformed, unaware, unfamiliar, et cetera. She did not like my response in the least bit and then stated something about my statement being more of the same as far as attacks made by firefighters toward the public, and that she was a member of the public.

I then informed her that I am just another member of the public and do not work as a firefighter, and as such, I can say as I please. The conversation was then over. I had so many more points to make too!!! Oh well – my comments and points will have to wait for another day.

To all of my AMR friends – how would it go over with you if the fire engine no longer responded to any medical calls? How much harder would it make your job? Would it be cool with you if there were no longer any firefighters to take vitals, administer Oxygen, package a patient and lift them as needed, flood IVs, perform CPR, c-spine a patient, initiate patient care and obtain a history prior to your arrival, and the list goes on and on?

I personally want a fire engine showing up along with an ambulance when it comes to my family and me. Any other service model just doesn’t make sense at all, especially given that it would not save the fire district enough money to even remotely make a dent in the budget deficit. This just shows a complete lack of common sense and comprehension of EMS by this person.

I sincerely hope that we get some other qualified and pragmatic candidates. So far Gene Clare has my vote, but we will see if anyone else steps up who deserves the job.

Just my two cents.

This is very similar to her comments on the June 25 ECCFPD meeting where she stated.

She (Carissa Pillow) stated her disappointment with the failure of the Yes on S campaign. She explained that Brentwood needs its second station because they pay 48% of the District and will be receiving 33% of the services. She thought the 4-station hybrid model was a solid option. She went on to explain that the District should stop responding to medical calls as firefighters should be fighting fires while AMR should handle medical. She stated she realized she was asking the District to drop 90% of their service calls. She moved onto to discussion about not wanting funds going towards an elected Board and how it should be a citizen appointed committee while instead of a volunteer firefighter program it should be invested in a volunteer first response service.

The reason why I wanted to bring this forward was because I had a similar conversation with Ms. Pillow’s after the June 25 ECCFPD meeting which we got into some pretty complex discussions and hypothetical situations. Midway through the conversation, Bob Mankin and I were joined with by two firefighters who further explained the importance of having fire first responders. The four of us went apparently 0-4 that night in trying to educate Ms. Pillow’s because a month later she is singing the same tune.

Ultimately, her plan is to have Dispatch play “20-qustions” during an emergency situation with AMR picking up the slack. After the game of 20-questions, dispatch will give the “okay” to send an engine head towards a scene. The problem with this plan talking to someone on the phone and arriving on scene is two completely different realities. A lot of the time, at no fault to dispatch, what was explained on the phone is not what the reality of the scene is.

As you can see, dispatch is now playing the guessing game with odds I’d rather not play against when someones life is at stake all in the name to save gas and maintenance money on engines. When we have an apparent $3 million debt, this suggestion saves around $40,000 per station annually.  This plan ultimately puts the cost of a life at $40,000.

I would encourage Ms. Pillows and others to read the document The Relationship of First Response to EMS from the Contra Costa Health Services Emergency Medical Service Agency (EMS).

Being a Critical Care Nurse in Trauma ICU, I would hope she would understand what ambulances and AMR can and cannot do in the field. If she reads the document, she would see there is multiple times within a matter of five pages where it states “ambulance service cannot duplicate fire first response times or activities.” The report also is clear when it says Fire first responders typically arrive 2‐5 minutes before an ambulance, but, depending on the location of the call and the location of the responding units, that interval can be 10 minutes or more.

What Ms. Pillows is not accounting for is the 2-5 minutes response time is after a call has been made to dispatch—it could vary from a matter of seconds or even minutes after an accident has occurred which means the response time is technically longer.

For example, during a car accident, someone calls 9-1-1, it’s going to take at least an additional minute to get dispatch all the information so they can appropriately dispatch the call.

Since Ms. Pillows states some calls do not require firefighters to perform CPR, I’d also encourage her to invest time in reading the portion of the document which explains how Importantly, fire first responders provide scene management, safety oversight, and rescue services (e.g., extricating patients from motor vehicle accidents). When patients require transport by helicopter (most often critical trauma patients), fire responders are required to manage the landing site. Fire personnel have all hazard capabilities not easily duplicated or replaced by other personnel.

About a month ago, Chief Louder  from CONFIRE spoke at the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association where he answered a series of questions (its all on video), here is the question that involves why engines are in the emergency call business.

CoCo Tax Association Lunch Question: Why are you in the emergency medical call business? Is there some way to transfer that responsibility and transfer cost? Why does an engine show up to my medical emergency?

Louder: “The county Emergency Medical Services plan (EMS) plan calls for an integrated system. It’s not something the fire service dreamed up, it’s the county plan.  Fire service first response, then transportation and continued treatment by ambulances (AMR). If you look at our system you find out the systems complement each other. It’s not an either or, but an integrated systematic approach to medical care and patient care.

AMR has a finite amount of units that they staff every day and they depend on fire service units to get their quickly and to be able to access the patient, to be able to treat and stabilize the patient while they bring the transport unit and then if necessary to transport to the hospital. That is what the county plan calls for. AMR acknowledge that’s exactly what the plan calls for that they depend on both of our resources and responses to protect the community.

The other important thing to remember is that whenever they pick up a patient and take someone to the hospital, they are out of service for 45 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes. By the time they treat, transport, turn them over to hospital staff, clean the unit, and restock the engine and all the stuff that it takes to do that and that fire unit that was their initially to help the patient goes back in service and take next emergency call.

The other important thing to remember, and I mentioned this earlier, is that our staffing level and our needs of one firefighter per thousand the 28 fire stations is based on fire response and fire needs. Everything we do from a medical standpoint truly is added value. It doesn’t mean we can reduce our capacity or it doesn’t mean we can reduce our units, but it allows us to enhance our service and provide additional service to the community which is already mandated for us to have those capabilities.

It is an integrated system by county policy; it is a system that compliments between ARM and the fire service. We are going to be there anyhow, we have to staff our stations for fire protection. We are providing additional service by being able to run the emergency medical calls.

It doesn’t make sense that if you have a staff unit with paramedics and EMT sitting close to that patient, and we many times arrive first, that we would be sitting in a fire station waiting for a fire call and not provide service to that community.  So that is what we are trying to do, maximize our performance, maximize our efficiency and provide the services the community needs.

People ask why we show up with a fire truck… the reality is the fire truck it is a very versatile and flexible platform for us to be able to conduct our operation.  If we respond from the firehouse to an emergency medical call, as soon as that patient is taken care of by AMR, that unit (fire engine) becomes available for the next call. If that happens to be a fire call or a rescue call our firefighters are already on a fire fighting unit and respond directly from that incident to the next incident. They don’t have to go back and switch units. They don’t have to have a single person driving a fire truck that is trying to go on an emergency response,  watch the road, talk on the radio, look at a map, and do all that type of stuff themselves. So we keep them together as a unit, they go to the calls, they get in service and they get ready for the next call and it really gives us a very efficient, flexible, platform for us to do multiple types of operations for an all hazards system.”

If people still are not satisfied with the County Health and Services document nor Chief Louder’s explanation and would rather wait for an ambulance, I’d encourage you to try an exercise which will prove this point as to why response times are important.

Dunk your head under water for two to five minutes and see how it feels.  Chances are you will prop your head above water pretty quickly. Next, repeat this exercise with a ”friend” who knows CPR (just in case), and give them strict instructions not to let your head above water for a period of two to five minutes—your choice.

Now imagine an emergency situation where you are helpless and can’t prop your head above water.  I guarantee you that you will not care who is showing up or what it costs as long as you are cared for. And in a real world scenario, can AMR cut a victim out of a car? Do they carry the appropriate tools? Can AMR knock down a front door? Imagine AMR arriving on scene to an accident only to call dispatch saying they need an engine before they can get to work–talk about a loss of time when seconds count!

What Ms. Pillows and others consistently fail to realize is that this is not the 1950’s where firefighters respond to only fires, the services have evolved and is effective through trial and error of the past—it’s like going from dial-up to high-speed internet. Dial-up works, but why use it when you can get better service!

Since some are stuck on the semantics of fire departments being fire only response, then maybe it’s time to change the name to “Emergency Response Units” so the confusion can stop.

Leaving engines in stations is a flawed argument and that only thing it does is put East County residents in greater danger while firefighters will improve their poker skills because that is what they would be doing by sitting in stations waiting for a fire.

Like I stated above, Ms. Pillow’s has some good ideas, but this fire issue may be a deal breaker depending on the final list of candidates. Brentwood has a big decision come November with its city council and it’s time to begin vetting the process and finding out just where your candidates stand on issues such as emergency response.

To find out more about Carissa Pillow, please visit her campaign website.

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Jill Thompson55 Aug 10, 2012 - 7:57 am

I like what Ms. Pillows has said here and shame on you for tearing her down. She is finding ways to reduce costs by having dispatch properly send engines when needed.to calls. You bringing Chief Louder into the dialogue is misleading because she is in Brentwood under ECCFPD, not CONFIRE. It’s two different services that are being provided. AMR can pick up the slack out this way.

EastCountyReader Aug 10, 2012 - 10:37 am

@ Jill,

Please explain how leaving paid firefighters in stations saves money. I personally would rather have them out in the field running calls and keeping up their skills. We are paying them to respond to emergencies-any emergency. So where is the exact cost savings?

I fail to follow your logic or that of Ms. Pillows. It seems to me that no one has a crystal ball and not sending fire to medicals that often require emergency skills, rescue, extrication, manpower would be silly.

I just don’t see a dime of cost savings by having the firefighters stop providing a service that we basically get for free. Please explain the logic in that.

Phillip Dru Aug 11, 2012 - 5:07 pm

Shame on the author for tearing her down?

“She is finding ways to reduce costs by having dispatch properly send engines when needed to calls.” True. But your candidate has apparently calculated the value of a life as $40,000.00, as said above. Is that really something you want? To be dying, and have your trained and ready fire department not respond to save wear and maintenance costs?

“You bringing Chief Louder into the dialogue is misleading because she is in Brentwood under ECCFPD, not CONFIRE. It’s two different services that are being provided.” Wrong. They are both fire services and they serve the same first response purposes. Chief Louder’s testimony on the value of first responders still applies.

“AMR can pick up the slack out this way.” Really? What does this mean? You really think AMR can do even close to the abilities of firemen? I suggest you read this article again, and this time, please pay attention.

JimSimmons42 Aug 10, 2012 - 7:58 am

I know you have written about her in the past and do not think she is very bright on this issue, but I do like some of her other ideas. Unfortunately, I am in Antioch so my vote doesn’t count on this one but I appreciate the great information that i can use for the CONFIRE parcel tax.

If I was Ms. Pillow, I’d leave this issue to the expert and figure out other topics that effect my community.

EastCountyReader Aug 10, 2012 - 10:46 am

@ Jill

Be aware there is a huge difference between a difficult decision and a bad one. What makes Ms. Pillows qualified to re invent a proven service model that is used all across the United States?

I do like that she is “thinking”, but what I don’t like is that she is not listening to the professionals that do the job and administer the job. Even EMS says they depend on the Fire Department at medical calls. Good leaders listen and if their ideas hold water, then the community will support them. In this case, her ideas on Fire service and cost reduction do not make any sense nor do they support themselves.

Like I said before, where is the cost savings by having paid firefighters stay in the stations when they could be out responding to calls. It is a simple question, deserving of an simple answer.

MikeClarke Aug 10, 2012 - 8:12 am

I’ve met Carissa Pillow on a couple of occasions and I like her approach to City Government and her plans for Brentwood. At the Cornfest she was direct, had good ideas, loves brentwood, and was not negative on any of the other candidates, plus she is a looker!!!!!!!!!! She has my vote. Brentwood really does need some change. I think it is not right to dismiss a candidate based on one issue.

JimSimmons42 Aug 10, 2012 - 8:15 am

Mr. Clarke,

I don’t know you and never spoken to you, but before you get all warm and fuzzy on Ms. Pillow, go re-read what Chief Louder said and the county document. She is ignoring the professionals for her own personal belief. What kind of councilperson will she be if she ignores professionals?

Jill Thompson55 Aug 10, 2012 - 8:33 am


I find Ms. Pillows to be very bright and looking for ways to sustain a district while tweaking the service model to reduce overall cost. If the money is not there, cuts need to be made. She shows her leadership by being able to make the difficult decisions while others drink the kool-aid by following the fire “professionals” you claim. If they were so professional, we wouldn’t be in the budget deficit with unfunded liabilities we are in today.

Phillip Dru Aug 11, 2012 - 5:10 pm

So it’s not right to have bias towards a candidate on one issue? Even if that issue deals with lives? hmmmmm. Plus, I think the voters of Brentwood are looking at a candidate’s perspectives over her prettiness.

RobSaw Aug 10, 2012 - 8:36 am

Burk, you really do put the hammer down on people don’t you? How this woman could not change her position is beyond me. The evidence is to great not to change her position. It’s not to late Carissa!

LarryS Aug 10, 2012 - 8:54 am

A friend sent me this article, if the engine did not respond, I would not be here typing this post. I am sure there are thousands of people who are just like me where firefighters saved my life. I am sure there are thousands where firefighters did not need to be on scene. But why risk it for a few dollars? I will not support this candidate unless she changes her position and does it in writing.

Who is she to get to decide how much my life is worth by saving money on fuel and maintenace costs? What gives her that right? I am appauled and thank you Ben for sharing your conversaton. I didn’t even know who this person is but someone needs to sit down with her and put some sense into her head.

Barbara DuMont Aug 10, 2012 - 9:02 am

It is so amusing reading the comments by some of you people. Have any of you sat in dispatch listening to calls? I have and its a real learning experience. People can make a stubbed toe sound like a life or death issue. How can you screen them? Play 20 questions? Great, while you are trying to ask the questions, the person vapor-locks! AMR has been very clear that they can not do the job As a professional in the medical field, I would think that Ms. Pillow would take the time to learn from the professional before she makes anymore stupid statements. .

Bob Aug 10, 2012 - 9:24 am

Ms. Pillows already knows my thoughts on this one and that is it’s a bad idea.

Boil away all the sidebar discussion and issues and what we are doing is putting saving a dollar above saving a life. How has our society and our dialog become that upside down?

This phone triage idea is not a new one. But it requires you to totally rely on the 911 caller to properly analyze the situation. If they make a mistake in their assessment and the dispatcher decides based on that mistake to not send an engine when one is needed, you can and will have needless loss of life…………so that someone in the community could save 50 cents that day.

There is no debate on whether the policy will cost lives. It’s only a question of how many.

This is third world thinking and a touch barbaric in its approach, IMO.

Jana A. Aug 10, 2012 - 9:37 am

I have met Carissa Pillow several times and I was hoping that she would take the opportunity that Station 52 offered to her to go on a ride along. (As far as I know, she has yet to take this offer) I would even encourage her to go on a ride along with AMR (if they allow it). I think that it is a HUGE mistake to have fire only respond to “fire” calls and have AMR (or whomever) respond to only “medical calls”.
And here are some of my specific examples of why I think this is a bad idea based on my 12 years of commuting from Brentwood to: (pick one of the many) to Stanford, to San Jose, to Vacaville, to Vallejo, to San Leandro, to Mountain View, to Redwood City, to Emeryville:

1. 580 Accident – (2) cars racing down 580 around 6:30 p.m. cutting in and out of traffic from fast lane to slow lane – one car tries to pass on left hand side of fast lane, hits the divider and proceeds spin out of control through traffic hitting several other cars and completing demolishing his automobile, only to end up back in fast lane in front of me. Alameda County Fire is the first on site and then the ambulance. Paramedics in ambulance waited until fire cleared the victim and were in the process of extricating him – then they came in and started their assessment. When fire arrived, they immediately used their big engine to block the scene so that they could respond safely, ensure CHP could respond and take over once on site. They also wanted to make sure that no one flying down the fast lane could then take my car and the accident car out. How is the ambulance going to asses the victim and transport him safely into the back of the ambulance while they wait for CHP to get there? Why should this call be an ambulance only call?

2. 80 – Westbound – Noon (ish) – Man in fast lane heading towards SF through Vacaville vomits all over himself – his windshield, his window (it was NASTY). Almost takes my car out in the lane next to him, proceeds to travel across all (5 or 6) lanes of traffic until he hits the concrete divider under the overpass. Vacaville fire was first on scene and then ambulance at least (7 to 8) minutes later. Vacaville Fire was able to get the man to safety and help him out of the car. As a side note, there was a small car fire that happened shortly after they removed the victim. Again, why should this call be an ambulance only call? Would of the fire spread to the side of the dry grass if only ambulance was there?

3. Vasco – 5:30 a.m. – motorcyclist tries to pass car on left hand side through delineators, hits car and then rebounds to right hand side of the road. People actually drove by the guy laying on the ground. If ECCCFD hadn’t used their engines to block the traffic these asshats would have still tried to pass closely to the motorcycle guy lying on the ground. ECCCFD was the first on scene, followed by AMR. Again, why should this call be an ambulance only call?

4. HWY 12 to Vacaville – Head-on collision between someone trying to pass when it wasn’t safe and the vehicle coming in the other direction. Rio Vista Fire department was first on scene and handled not only triaging all of the accident victims but securing the scene as well. CHP was next to arrive and the ambulance arrived about 15 minutes later. This one was incredibly frightening – I have never been standing at the side of the road, wondering when the hell the ambulance was going to get there. My CPR/First Aid covers the “Anne, are you ok crap” it did not prepare me for this – I give great Kudos to Rio Vista for this one! What would have happened if only the ambulance was supposed to arrive?

I don’t want a dispatcher or someone who is at the scene and not trained making the decision as to whether or not I need an ambulance, a fire engine, or both. One bad call, one bad accident could mean someone’s life and we are playing a risky risky game by going down this path.

Sorry Burk that it got so lengthy.

Barbara DuMont Aug 10, 2012 - 9:53 am

@Jana these are the items that people need to hear. the majority of people are totally clueless as to the jobs of our public safety. At least until they need them, then its where the hell are they. I can just hear it now, ‘My Grannie fell down and I called 911. the people on the phone told me it wasn’t an emergency and that they would send me an ambulance. Well, the ambulance finally got here, about 30 minutes after I called, and told me they couldn’t help get Grannie up. I needed the fire department. But the people at dispatch said I wasn’t an emergency and my Grannie is just laying on the floor. Who is suppose to help me”. Stop laughing and think, under what these people are suggesting, this could be our emergency response.

Barbara DuMont Aug 10, 2012 - 10:26 am

and before anyone gets pissy, My Grannie had a stroke and laid on the floor of her house for about 12-14 hours before she was found. Engine 81 of ConFire was the first on scene and had to move her because when she fell she blocked the doorway and they couldn’t work on her where she was. Without the extra hands on scene, there would have been additional time lost providing her medical care. A year later, Engine 81 was also first on scene when she passed away. Again they were there helping before AMR arrived

burkforoakley Aug 10, 2012 - 10:03 am

I don’t mind length, this was full of good substance and I appreciate it.

Kevin Aug 10, 2012 - 2:38 pm

During a medical emergency, seconds count. Someone calls 9-1-1 stating they are having difficulty breathing. How precise is the 9-1-1 operator’s triage? Is it a precursor to a heart attack, stroke or are they having a panic attack? Is the breathing difficulty due to inhaling toxic fumes? How long can they afford to wait, 5, 10, 15 minutes? Where is the patient located, upstairs, downstairs, in a basement, in a tree, on the roof, trapped under a fallen book case? Is there enough reliable information on the patient’s condition to determine if additional help is needed? Valuable time may be lost if additional personnel are not dispatched until the ambulance arrives and makes an assessment.

It is important to recognize no medical call is “routine”. There is no way of knowing what is needed on each call, or what will be encountered. As such, the dispatch is based on a worst-case scenario.

Generally speaking the fire engine is closer to an incident because fire stations are strategically located within a community. This allows for a very quick response time, usually faster than the ambulance will arrive. So they can get there first, stabilize and wait for the ambulance. The crews on the fire engines are trained to handle basic life support medical emergencies as well as ancillary problems associated with any number of emergency situations. Ancillary problems include removing patients from difficult locations such as bath rooms, upper floors or down narrow hallways, extrication of patients from vehicles and equipment; addressing spilled or leaking flammable and combustible liquids, and ensuring for overall scene safety of the general public, first responders, and patients. Additional personnel on scene make these situations easier on the patient and other emergency personnel.

In critical situations timely treatment of patients is paramount. To ensure the best possible care the Fire Department will work in tandem with trained and equipped medical professionals. With additional personnel on scene treatment can be performed at a quicker pace and advanced treatments such as IV’s, intubations, and medication administration can be performed simultaneously to ensure that the patient has the greatest chances of surviving the emergency. People are alive today because the Fire Department responded to their medical emergency.

But why are fire engines sent? Chief Louder of the Contra Costa Fire Protection District was asked this question while speaking at a recent Contra Costa Taxpayers Association event: “People ask why we show up with a fire truck… the reality is the fire truck it is a very versatile and flexible platform for us to be able to conduct our operation. If we respond from the firehouse to an emergency medical call, as soon as that patient is taken care of by AMR, that unit (fire engine) becomes available for the next call. If that happens to be a fire call or a rescue call our firefighters are already on a fire fighting unit and respond directly from that incident to the next incident. They don’t have to go back and switch units. They don’t have to have a single person driving a fire truck that is trying to go on an emergency response, watch the road, talk on the radio, look at a map, and do all that type of stuff themselves. So we keep them together as a unit, they go to the calls, they get in service and they get ready for the next call and it really gives us a very efficient, flexible, platform for us to do multiple types of operations for an all hazards system.”

If a smaller vehicle is used instead of a fire engine staffing models would need to change to adequately staff these vehicles. In order to do that people would be taken off the fire engines to man those vehicles or additional people would be needed on each shift to staff those vehicles. Should there be a call for a fire or other emergency the fire engine and its crew can respond directly to that incident without having to return to the station and get the fire engine. Additionally there are many times when the ambulances are committed to other incidents. In these cases the closest fire engine will be sent as a first response unit. Fire engines are supplied with medical equipment that allows the firefighters to begin appropriate care while they wait for an ambulance.

When the fire engine is not needed on an incident, it is released to go back into service as soon as possible. The cost of the fuel to have the extra help immediately available when it is needed is a small cost when compared to the loss of precious minutes when a life is on the line.

burkforoakley Aug 10, 2012 - 3:11 pm

Thanks Kevin,

One fact that I was unaware that was told to me today, which I believe adds unneeded response times before the clock even starts, is calls made by cell phones that dial 9-1-1, go to the California State Highway Patrol. These calls are then transferred to the local dispatch unit to send emergency response units. Meaning, it adds a couple of extra minutes in an emergency just while calls are transferred. Only land lines go directly to the local dispatch.

Carissa Pillow Aug 10, 2012 - 3:06 pm

Thank you all for the dialogue and feedback. As this is a very heated and at times inflammatory topic, I will not be engaging in an online discussion on this topic. I will happily meet with any Brentwood resident who would like to discuss their concerns. My desire is not to usurp the authority of professionals, but to gain a perspective on the standard of practice and help the Fire District as well as the residents of Brentwood whom I want to serve. I will be meeting next week with Vince, and I do still intend to go on a ride along. I appreciate your words of support and advice on this topic. It takes multiple perspectives to create the whole picture, so I value your thoughts on this topic! Truly, Varissa

Carissa Pillow Aug 10, 2012 - 3:08 pm

*typo*. Truly, Carissa

burkforoakley Aug 10, 2012 - 3:16 pm

Why would you go offline on such an important issue such as public safety? Is it so you can dispute conversations took place like you have now done to Ben? This is a bizarre stance to take because you are not changing your position, not defending it, you are just taking it offline. More to the point, this is a huge problem because you are taking a DISTRICT issue to Brentwood. Meaning your solution does not create good relations to Oakley, Discovery Bay, Bethel Island and to cities covered by CONFIRE. This is a District issue, not a Brentwood issue because its ECCCFPD, not Brentwood Fire Dept.

Ben Whitener Aug 10, 2012 - 5:46 pm

Carissa – I am a bit confused as to why you do not want to state your position on this matter. I can appreciate that the topic will generate some “passionate and heated conversations”, which only seems healthy in any debate regarding such an important issue such as this one. Discussions such as these can lead to a great deal of progress when people on both sides of the fence openly listen to each other and do their best to find some common ground. It seems very strange to me that you are unwilling to plainly and simply state your opinions in a public forum such as this one, yet you are running for an office where passionate and heated conversations are going to be commonplace. I hope that my frankness is not a reason why you do not want to participate in this open discussion, and if I have offended you in any way, that was not my intent. If I were running for political office, I would expect nothing less from members of the public and would do my best to publically state my position on various issues to prevent any confusion that others might have. I think it would be very productive for everyone involved (your supporters and detractors alike) if all of us are able to engage in a spirited debate of this issue supported by facts, so that we could all learn about your thought process and decision making ability. We disagree on this issue, but I am sure there are other issues where we may agree completely – and before I cast my vote I would know more about you and the other candidates. People aren’t always going to agree, and you aren’t going to make everyone happy – which is what makes this country and our political process great.

Frank S Aug 12, 2012 - 3:58 pm

Ben, that makes two of us who are confused. I’d never support a candidate who just posted something like this on a forum. What an arrogant candidate.

RobSaw Aug 10, 2012 - 4:07 pm

Based off this statement, this candidate has just lost all credability going forward.

JimSimmons42 Aug 10, 2012 - 5:00 pm

I am not buying this one, I’ve read about you over the last month or so since you have announced. You appear to have received the information many times and have ignored it. Now that you are being called out on it you don’t like it and will now only discuss it by appointment. Typical candidate behavior. I may not be able to vote for you, but I sure as heck can campaign against you as someone on this board has said before.

Vincent Wells Aug 11, 2012 - 1:34 pm

The fact that this topic continues to come up simply blows me away. As someone who has worked for a private ambulance company and four different fire agencies, I don’t understand why the answer isn’t simple and why the question continues to come up. Have people not heard why fire engines respond to medicals yet. I blame those who have brought this issue up and who have had the question answered and have not shared it to their constiuents yet. It seems to be a no brainer. I always hear those that are against firefighters and our current issues, bring the question up, but yet have never seen their list of reasons why not. As I told Kris Hunt, a good leader knows both sides of an argument. I can go back to my members and explain every point that Borenstein or Kris Hunt ever makes. How come they continue to bring this issue up, when we have spent hours with them on the subject. They never put the arguments out against our facts, they just keep throwing the question back out there. So many members of the public are being bamboozled by this technique. We have offered ride alongs, videos, statistics, personal accounts, and information from multiple sources in all components of public safety. Yet this keeps being regurgitated without any explaination.
People must wake up and get educated on this subject. This is dangerous to the community and the very fabric of emergency response and emergency medical service. No other county that I know of is taken this type of approach to breakdown the public safety in their community.

I will list reasons why we send fire engines to medical calls. I challenge all of those who speak against this practice to give a reason why not. Let’s talk about this subject. Not the fact that I am the union president or that our motives are self serving. Let’t put facts out there for the people who read this to get a better understanding.

1. Many of the medical calls we go to include, fires, vehicle accidents, people trapped, the need for rope rescue, water rescue, any other traumatic events that require specific rescue training and equipment not provided by a private ambulance. For an example, that vehicle accident can have multiple patients, could have the potential for the fuel from that vehicle igniting, the vehicle may need to be stablelized if it is on its side. We also prevent the oil, antifreeze, or other fluids from getting into the storm drains.

2. An ambulance only has two people on it. Medical calls that involve critical or unstable patients require multiple personnel to manage. We have equipment to carry and set up, have patient that may need multiple interventions at the same time. Many patients are obese and must be lifte a n carried a long with the equipment and the IVs that may be established, as well as oxygen, cardiac monitoring. People are often found unconscious upstairs in a bathroom as an example. Two personnel cannot manage these situations effectively. Also, with two personnel, once the patient is loaded in the ambulance, one of them must drive which leaves one person in the back. One person in the back of an ambulance with a critical patient is ineffective and greatly depreciates the chance for a positive outcome.

3. Fire stations are placed througout the community for rapid response for fires. We will be there for that regardless. Why not use us. That is much cheaper then placing 5 people on an ambulance and paying them as well us the fire fighters down the street. You would also have to train the ambulance personnel and equip them with all the other equipment necessary if you aren’t sending the fire department.

4. We send the fire engine to medical calls and not a two person SUV because of the fact that fire is still our number one priority. If we are in a SUV and a fire call comes in, going back to the station to get the fire engine would take too long in most cases. The system works and is very efficient. Fire agencies that send fire fighters in SUVs to medical calls have staffing for both. Meaning the fire engine is staffed while at the fire station with three people and they have two additional personnel to run the medical squad. We only have three people at a fire station, again, this model would require 5.

Mike has attached information that supports why we send engines to medical calls. As many times that this has come up, I still have not seen the documentation or any real facts that support why changing this model would save money or lives. You have heard this from the Fire Chiefs, The Director of Operations of the ambulance company, the Head of County EMS, survivors, and field personnel, but some people choose to listen instead to a columnist and Ms. Hunt?

burkforoakley Aug 11, 2012 - 4:54 pm

Thank you Vince

Frank S Aug 12, 2012 - 3:58 pm

Mr. Wells, I appreciate your input and thank you for this post.

Phillip Dru Aug 11, 2012 - 4:38 pm

The candidate’s withdraw from discussion as important as this makes me scared what she has in mind for the future of Brentwood.

burkforoakley Aug 11, 2012 - 4:54 pm

Lesson 1: voters don’t make appointments with candidates, candidates go to the voters.

Phillip Dru Aug 11, 2012 - 5:02 pm

Indeed. What she is doing is an insult to her constituents.

Barbara DuMont Aug 11, 2012 - 4:48 pm

@Vince. THANK YOU. I hope you don’t mind if I copy and paste your response to a couple of people that need a wake up.

Phillip Dru Aug 11, 2012 - 5:26 pm

I ultimately cannot say I will Rest Easy if Candidate Pillow gets influence in the Fire District.

Frank S Aug 12, 2012 - 3:57 pm

This woman is clearly an idiot and does not know how to play politics very well. She won’t win many friends the way she is going about things with the ECCFPD.

Jana A. Aug 13, 2012 - 1:47 pm

One more comment regarding “fire calls” vs. “medical calls”

If firefighters only do “fire” then who is going to do the following??

Who is going to pull you out of the rubble in an earthquake? Should we wait until something catches on fire first?
Who is going to pull construction workers or homeowners out during roof collapses, wall collapses, etc? Are we going to wait until the concrete wall catches on fire before they use those big bags to lift heavy debris off people? No, wait – is AMR going to do that?
Electrocute yourself on a power pole, sorry we cant use the ladder truck to get you since you are not on fire.
Who is going to pull you out of a trench when it collapses? (See recent Brentwood trench incident where fire spent most of the night trying to get a guy out of his backyard collapsed trench)
Who is going to pull your little kid out of the storm drain, well, etc when they fall in?
Who is going to do any sort of confined space rescue?
Who is going to pull you out of a boating accident, or waterway incident where there is no Coast Guard? Or Sheriff department that has swift water rescue?

Should Menlo Park now get rid of its CA-TF3 Urban Search and Rescue Team? They were deployed along with many other departments to assist during 9-11, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ernesto, Charlie, Francis, Ivan, Dennis…etc… They aren’t strictly fire, should they disband?

Who is going to have NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and the Office of the State Fire Marshall re-write their standards for fire fighting to delineate between “fire” and “medical” and then have is pass the state legislature and be adopted?

I just don’t see the logic in having an engine and an entire crew sitting in a firehouse waiting for “fire calls” when their job descriptions involve so much more, just to save the cost of gas and maintenance. If we aren’t going to call them, who are we going to call?

Should we call Kris Hunt, Daniel Borenstein, Dave Roberts, Carissa Pillow?? Anyone? Anyone? Are you going to get there in under 5 minutes?

JigsUp Aug 13, 2012 - 2:02 pm

People are hung up on the label “fire department”.

Change the name to aid some of those unable to critically think for themselves. One could start with an educational effort for members of the opposing tax group, who seem especially incapable of comprehending the changing role of the department over the last few decades.

If we could have a wish, mine would be we load all these naysaying Howard Jarvis drones into an airplane, Parachute them into some far away island where their tax and government policies are practiced in the remote society and their population is served accordingly.

Most of them wouldn’t last a week.

EastCountyReader Aug 13, 2012 - 4:24 pm

Jana and Jigs,

Fantastic rebuttals. It still amazes me that the CCTPA and CCT self-proclaimed “experts” continue to suggest having the fire department only respond to fires. There is simply no thought process behind their talking point. Apparently they don’t spend much time thinking these things through and just use it as a tool to confuse citizens and voters.

It appears a simple solution would be to change the name of the Fire Department to “Emergency Services”.

Carissa Pillow Aug 15, 2012 - 11:29 pm

Jana, Jigs, Frank, Phillip, Barbara, Jim, Rob, Kevin, Bob, Larry, Phillip, Jim, East County Reader, and Jill:

I want to clear up a few misconceptions in this thread. I hear and see that you are all very passionate about fire service in the East Contra Costa County District. I have been reluctant to post further information on my position, as I have been doing due diligence in learning the complexities of the Fire District and the role that the Fire District plays in health care. I have spoken with at least 50 people within my constituency to get a wide spread feel for why measure S failed. I campaigned for “Yes on S” because I agree that we need revenue that was lost when all of our homes were devalued by the Tax Assessor’s office. I voiced PERCIEVED duplications of service in the public after the campaign was finished, as I believe that is one of the sticking points that caused our campaign to fail. I suggested to stop arriving at low level calls BECAUSE that is where the public is seeing the duplication. I met with Vince Wells today for a lengthy meeting to get clarification on this issue and discuss how to make a future campaign successful. We won’t be having an elected board in East Contra Costa County District because the elections cost more than the district can afford. I brought up the idea of an appointed citizens board at the Fire Board meeting because I felt that the Board in place doesn’t work together well due to their interest in protecting their individual cities. There are clearly personalities on the present board that do not see eye to eye. Yes I have a libertarian background. However, I don’t follow party line on this issue because I believe that when you keep taxes local, the responsible districts can be held accountable for their decisions. The further that money flows away, the less accountable any district is to the decisions they make with the money.

The discussion I was having with Ben, that he diverted me from was a discussion on the areas where a future campaign could succeed. I also wanted to relay to Gil the information that I had gathered so that he would have the tools he needed to succeed.

Whether you all are aware of this or not, your next campaign has already begun. It is crucial that the messages you provide the public are clear, consistent, optimistic and POLITELY rebuff any “Yeah but” that you receive.

Today, I met with Vince Wells, whom I should have met with first. It would have been helpful if one of you very well intentioned folks had directed me there, politely, first. I found Vince Wells information to be very helpful. In fact, I feel that the words he shared with me today, I can share with my constituents to help them understand why the system works the way it works. I am actively working with Vince to learn more about the District and how I can help give the right information with my campaign.

I want to be clear on this: I support Fire. I absolutely see the need for Fire Service, and I am beginning to understand the current service delivery model. I have no “shady” agenda. I am not interested in undermining Professional Fire Fighters or frankly any profession to which I do not belong. My desire is to support and protect my area and the people that I will hopefully serve.

Ben, you took me on like an out of control dog going after a piece of meat. It is very hard to educate myself when I perceive you attacking me as I extend my hand to help you. If you had asked me to meet with you, or made any attempt to contact me before you bashed me behind my back on your forum, I would have happily met with you to discuss your ideas. Instead you blind sighted me, which really made it very difficult to research further.

I will issue a public statement about Fire Service as soon as I finish my education in this topic. I will work closely with Vince to make 100% certain I understand the perspectives of the whole group. I don’t mean to “leave you hanging”, but is important that the words I speak are accurate and supportive. I am neither shady, nor ignorant, nor narrow minded. I think that no one has ever accused me of such things in my life. I support Fire Services, I campaigned for “Yes on S” and I would appreciate not being completely discredited by the lot of you before I have a full understanding of what is going on in this District.

I would also appreciate if you would STOP characterizing my constituents as “ignorant”. I appeal to you that this does not cast a good light on the fire services that you provide and it really leaves a sour taste in the mouths of the people you serve. You need to have a unified, clear, CONCISE, repeating response that is considerate of the people that you are trying to sway. There is no place for negativity in a campaign of any kind, including yours.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to hear your opinions. Please give me time to work on a statement that is supportive of your efforts.

Mike Burkholder: So its the other guys fault you did not seek out Vince Wells before making your comments and opinions heard?
about an hour ago · Like

Carissa Pillow: No Mike, it is not any one’s fault but my own. I didn’t say that it was. I said that it would have been nice to have this articulate expert explaining the full extent of the complexities. I find that there are people who help others by directing them to the most qualified people in the field. I also find that there are people who distort the message by using bully tactics to “support” the group. In a campaign for a tax, bully tactics do not work. They only turn off the people who are making the decisions whether to support or not support the tax. I would recommend that your group use more carrot and less stick in the way that handle public relations. That was intended as constructive, and concerned criticism. I only wish for the Fire District’s success.

Mike Burkholder: I thought Jeff Burris and Brian Helmick laid it out pretty good at Black Bear for you. With that said, I wish you luck in your race and finding out more details on fire, however, as a Brentwood candidate, fire is not your issue you should be focusing on.

Carissa Pillow: I’m glad that you thought that. Unfortunately, the person that needed to think that was me. What I saw at the Black Bear were two men under a great deal of duress who were unable to dispel the perception of duplication of service. As I just said, I will be spending a few more sessions with Vince that will hopefully speak to my constituents concerns. I would appreciate being given the time that I need to do that. Mike, up to this point, have you seen any other candidate appear at the Fire Board Meetings in hopes of learning what these issues are? And why might that be? What candidate went out of their way to bother to learn the issues? Why might that be? Have you seen a candidate making efforts to help the district? Do you see this candidate as anything other than concerned and caring for our Fire District? If you have, let me know. I will revise any perceived ill will, because I care about this issue. It matters. It matters a lot. It’s not something I’m trying to turn into a campaign issue. The Fire District is just something that I care about seeing through to success regardless of whether I win my City Council campaign or not.

Mike Burkholder: Actually I have… Gene Clare spoke at the fireboard meeting, was in a campaign flyer, and I believe made phone calls.

Carissa Pillow: Really? I’m glad to hear that. It is rare that I see other candidates attend any meetings at all. I hope he is also speaking with Vince Wells. I hope he took an afternoon to speak with Brian Helmick, Chief Henderson, Gil Guerrero, and visited the downtown fire station to speak with those gentlemen for an afternoon BEFORE it shut down. I also hope to see him attend some City Council Meetings and make a commitment to attend as many Fire Board meetings as he can. I feel that our candidate pool is full of a great group of people. And I hope they genuinely care about our Fire District. Because, the work that our District does is important.

Phillip Dru Aug 18, 2012 - 6:56 pm

Have you finished this public statement yet?

B-wood Aug 18, 2012 - 11:18 pm

Ms. Pillows,

While I appreciate your attempts to clarify, I would be remiss if I did not let you know I am concerned by your message and tone. You come across as thin skinned which would not serve you (or your future constituents) well, if you are ever elected to office.

To take this issue a step further it is important to know that Measure “S” failed for numerous reasons, beyond what you cited. Many voters chose to believe falsehoods that were being peddled by a few anti-tax zealots. Compounding matters, was the average citizen does not acknowledge the reality that they are currently paying far less local taxes due to decreased property values. The amount they are “saving” is coming directly out of the fire department’s operating budget and is the nexus which has created this current situation. We could debate the merits of why “Yes” on Measure “S” message did not resonate but in the end, the voters of East County will have to experience a costly lack of emergency service, until the climate changes for a future measure to pass.

It boils down to “perception” versus “reality” of how emergency services are delivered. For the most part only the Firefighters, EMS personnel, first responders, administrators, a few politicians, fire commissioners and victims of emergencies know those realities. Those that peddled the “No on S” message played on ignorance and “perception”….it was easy! This is why it is troubling when an elected official or someone seeking office falls for the perceptions or tries to reinvent the wheel. I’ll wager that this is why you have met with frustration from some of the fire personnel and individuals that have been actively engaged in this particular issue. There is a reason these individuals are experts in their fields, so when someone such as a taxpayer special interest group, lazy journalist, Johnny come lately or even the latest candidate tells them that they know better, they tend to be short. Explaining the obvious to the absurd over and over again might just explain and excuse their demeanor. Go easy on them Carissa, they have been attacked by idiots.

If you don’t think they realize that they are already campaigning then you should steer clear of politics. (hence your comment; “your next campaign has already begun”). They have been campaigning for years as part of their everyday public service on every call. Again Carissa, you are not really in a position to educate them-it is obvious you are new to politics, they are not.
As for your other comment; “I would also appreciate if you would STOP characterizing my constituents as “ignorant”, You should probably be aware that you have no “constituents” until the time that you are elected. Stating anything different only makes you look ignorant.

I for one appreciate that you are going to meetings, but just attending doesn’t make you an expert, just like standing in a garage doesn’t make you a mechanic. It is what you learn and how you inspire people to do what they do best. In many cases you have been standing among experts, I suggest you take advantage of that knowledge-not argue with it.

You mentioned “duplication of services” repetitively yet you fail to recognize that the directors of EMS and AMR both state, they rely on the fire department on all medicals. AMR is in the transport business-the fire department is not. According to Vince Wells (Con Fire), Leslie Mueller (AMR) and Pat Frost (County EMS) they are part of a cohesive TEAM when it comes to medical emergencies. You don’t need to look very far or attend many meetings to get that information. I ask you, how many times does it need to be explained. Candidates and voters have a responsibility in all of this. You just cannot keep asking the same question over and over hoping you will change the message!

In closing you stated that you “would appreciate not being completely discredited by the lot of you before you have a full understanding of what is going on in the district”. Based on what I have read here (and been informed by some of the individuals that you are butting heads with), you have made statements which have discredited your opinion because you did so even after having a full understanding and explanation. Therefore your quoted statement disqualifies itself on its merits and your past actions speak quite differently than the message you are trying to deliver here.
I actually cringed reading your exchange with Burk and Mr. Whitener. As a voter, I think it is you that needs to work on your delivery.

Carissa you may eventually make a fantastic city council member (Brentwood needs change) but so far you are making every rookie mistake in the book while trying to tell everyone else how to conduct their business. (You have no constituents unless you are elected!) Brentwood has developed a bad reputation of “not playing well with others” and it appears to be getting worse.

If you have a desire to change that “perception” your candidacy is an excellent place to start.

Brentwood: An Open Letter to Carissa Pillow | East County Today Aug 19, 2012 - 2:15 am

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