Fire Department Holds Emergency Meeting To Approve Purchase Of Rescue Equipment
The recent dramatic increase of serious vehicular accidents in the area prompted the local fire department board to hold an emergency meeting this past Saturday morning to approve more than $17,000 for the purchase of new, advanced equipment to extricate people from cars.
Douglas City Council Member Kathryn Mooradian, also on the Saugatuck Township Fire District Board, made the report at Monday’s council meeting.
“The old extraction equipment is electronic-based and it takes many minutes just to set it up; the new equipment is battery-operated and you can set it up within a matter of seconds,” noted Mooradian.
“We have had eight major accidents on the highway (I-196 near Old Allegan Road) in 17 days; that is one accident every two days,” Janik told The Local Observer newspaper Tuesday.
The hike is due to driver distraction from electronic gadgets—phone texts, iPods, etc.— exacerbated by ongoing road construction, said Janik.
Following the fire board approval Saturday for the hydraulic battery-powered equipment, the very next day there was a chain reaction crash on the highway involving three church buses and two cars.
The buses were carrying 30 children and one of the bus drivers had to be extricated.
“I had to put my foot down with MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation, the state agency charged with, among other matters, highway safety); something is not right out there,” said Janik.
“While the signage MDOT has on the highway complies with all standards, it is not enough. The topography makes things difficult,” he said of the construction project, particularly at mile markers 36 and 37 northbound on I-196.
He is currently working with MDOT and the state police to sort things out.
The board will use monies raised from its ongoing fundraising campaign—launched earlier this summer precisely to raise funds for hydraulic battery-powered rescue tools—to reimburse its fund balance, where the emergency expense of $17,231 was taken from to buy what is called a spreader and RAM.
“It’s part of our capital improvement plan. We just need to buy the equipment now rather than later,” said Jane Verplank, who doubles as Saugatuck City Council Member and chair of The Saugatuck Township Fire District Board.
However, the new rescue systems could take up to 12 weeks to get, according to Janik.
The demand in emergency services this summer has added pressure on a fire department that increasingly responds to calls usually more suited for the police department.
The problem is exacerbated by a Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department that often has to respond to calls outside of its jurisdiction, namely Saugatuck Township.
Police coverage and the need to improve it - particularly in the township - is currently under discussion by the different municipal, fire and police representatives of the Tri-Community.
Early in the year the fire department board approved the purchase of a $9,300 edraulic cutter, but officials figured they needed another $21,000 to complete its rescue equipment tool program.