Fire Chief Defends Department from Recent Criticism

Fire Chief George Klauber defended his practices at the Sept. 16 Town Council meeting.

Klauber had been criticized in recent weeks by resident John Burtis, in both letters to newspapers and public forums, on his department’s response time and use of the E 9-1-1 dispatch system. After successful containment of a structure fire the day before,

Klauber took the microphone to praise his department and its methods.

The fire, at 35 Maple St., destroyed an industrial building housing four businesses, but Klauber’s crews and Mutual Aid prevented the fire from spreading. The response time was three minutes, according to a press release.

“Our Fire Department operations are recognized as Best Practices,” Klauber told the Council and television audience. “Our standard operating guidelines were not just developed by me, but by the command staff, with a combined 150 years of experience.”

Klauber said his people are well-trained in modern fire suppression tactics according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 1021. His crew members are nationally and internationally certified, he said.

In addition, he said, his fire engines and equipment are consistent with NFPA Standard 1901.

“Our fire suppression strategies and tactics are consistent with other departments in the region, and we are prepared to meet the needs of Derry,” Klauber said.

The E 9-1-1 system, which routs emergency calls through a central dispatch in Concord, has served the state well for 30 years, Klauber said. In particular, it’s easy for children to remember. “Before that,” he said, “there was a seven-digit emergency line for each department.”

The Public Service Answering Point, or PSAP, receives 2,000 9-1-1 calls a day, according to the Bureau of Emergency Management’s Web site.

And it is quick, Klauber added. When the Monday fire was called in, the crews were rolling out in a matter of seconds, he said.
E 9-1-1 also streamlines the process, Klauber said, leaving the department’s main line open for non-emergency business.
Councilor Tom Cardon, who attended the meeting via conference call, asked, “Suppose I have a fire in my kitchen. What’s the procedure?”

Klauber said the initial 9-1-1 call would go to Concord. “They notify us. Our first response, when we’re fully staffed, is to leave with four engines, each with 1,000 gallons of water and a tanker with 2,500 gallons of water,” he said. The responders use lights and sirens to clear the way, he noted, adding, “Once we arrive, and determine if it’s a working fire, we then launch our mutual aid system.”

Councilor Al Dimmock, who lives near the site of the Sept. 15 fire, said, “His crew did a great job.”

Klauber gave the credit to his staff, including Battalion Chief Michael Gagnon, and the mutual aid from surrounding towns. “The mutual aid was phenomenal,” he said.

Klauber also brought the Council up to speed on the E 9-1-1 street renaming process. “We are 12th on the list, behind Dover and Manchester, so it will take a while,” he said.