To the editor:
The Lorraine Fire After Action Report was released in February 2009, in it is printed "Further, in that there was no Fire Department recording of the radio or dispatch communications available ... ." On page 51 of the report is "Radio communications were disorganized, untracked, not recorded and inadequate." On Page 59, "There was no recording log of of fire department dispatches or radio transmissions." And on Page 73, "Radio communications and telephone calls are not recorded. This prevents playback of critical emergency communications and places the city at risk."
Seven months later, in September 2009, a second analysis of the Fire Department is conducted. That report, the Management Audit on the Gloucester Fire Department, is released and in it is; "The Fire Department does not record incoming emergency calls or two-way radio traffic." That report includes recommendation No. 22 which states "A digital recording and instant playback system should be installed on the Fire Department telephone lines and two-way radio system." A repeat of the deficiency noted in the Lorraine report.
More than two years after the first report, in the Gloucester Daily Times' June 28 front-page story, headlined "City has, working with, report on fire response," is; "Kirk, however, said the report would detail several ways the Fire Department could change how it responds to fires — including requiring the dispatch and radio transmissions to be recorded for review." "(The report) needs to focus on continuous improvement," she said, adding that the Police Department uses that type of dispatch review, but the Fire Department does not.
Apparently the lack of a recorder is mentioned in the draft only she and Chief Administrative Officer James Duggan have seen. If so, this is the third time this deficiency has been noted in as many reports. These reports are expensive. The three have cost the city upwards of $40,000. Also in the story, "Kirk said city officials don't have editorial license with the report. MRI is the only entity in the city's review of the report that can alter the document, she said; so far, the mayor said, only she and Chief Administrative Officer James Duggan have reviewed the report."
But the story reports that she sent it back for the auditing firm to revise? Kirk said the city returned the report to the auditor — Municipal Resources Incorporated (MRI) — for what the mayor calls factual errors. The author of the report, Fire Chief Christopher LeClaire of the Portsmouth Fire Departmen,t did not include the use of thermal imaging cameras in his After Action Report. As a fire chief, he is well versed in the existence and use of them. Apparently, he did not find it necessary to comment on their use, but the mayor thinks he should?
On June 1, Mr. Duggan, CAO to Mayor Kirk, was asked "Can the union get copies of all drafts?" He said no. He was asked, "Could an independent and neutral person get or at least read the drafts." He said no.
Regarding requests for information on the Fire Department, the Kirk administration is one that does not give out that information willingly. For example, just this past month, when the City Council requested, by vote, information on Rescue Squad staffing, the mayor used the power of the veto to deny it the information. The council eventually voted to override that veto.
A lot of money has been spent on these reports and specific concerns should be given to repeat deficiencies. A common goal is possible here. One of widespread acceptance of the Pleasant Street fire report, so that it can be used to "focus on continuous improvement." That can be accomplished if the evolution to the final report is, simply put, transparent.
Gloucester Firefighters Union