Here, in no particular order, we will try to answer some of the more commonly asked questions we receive from the public. If you have any questions that are not answered here, please feel free to contact us and we will do our best to answer them and perhaps add them to the website. Also, check out our LINKS page which contains a great deal of information that may provide the answers you are looking for as well. Thank you.
If I call specifically for an ambulance or a fire engine, why do other apparatus often show up as well?
There are many reasons this may be the case. Apparatus may already be on the road and will respond because they are close to the scene or to ensure adequate staffing on scene. Also, various equipment is carried on different apparatus, so we may need to respond with more than one vehicle in order to be properly equipped on that particular incident. Sometimes, with limited staffing, we may need the people for an incident but not necessarily a particular piece of apparatus, but in order to be able to cover other runs that may come in, we will take the additional vehicle with us. Finally, we run a "chase car" on EMS runs, which is a car that goes along with the ambulance- this provides additional staffing on scene but allows that additional person to be available for subsequent emergencies once the ambulance begins transport to the hospital. If the patient is in critical condition, that extra person is already there and will join the medic crew to the hospital. We do our best to manage our often limited resources in the most safe and efficient manner possible.
What is "mutual aid" and "automatic mutual aid"?
Most municipalities and other governmental entities have signed pacts with each other that if one agency needs help, the other will come to assist, and vice versa. These are referred to as "mutual aid agreements." For example, if WHFD is tied up on a structure fire, and another call comes in which we are unable to respond to, we will request "mutual aid" from another city to respond and handle that run. The same goes if additional staffing or equipment is needed on a run, we can request mutual aid. "Automatic Mutual Aid" is mutual aid that is pre-determined and requested on the initial dispatch of a run typically for incidents that require immediate extra staffing (reported structure fires) or for other logistical reasons (geography, etc.).
What if I accidentally dial 9-1-1?
Don't panic and don't hang up. Misdials to 9-1-1 are common. If you do dial 9-1-1 by accident, stay on the line. The dispatcher will confirm your name, phone number, possibly your address/location, and that there is in fact no emergency taking place... and then they will let you know it's okay to disconnect. This serves two purposes: 1) It prevents having to send resources to confirm there is no emergency there and 2) it helps confirm that the information coming across the 9-1-1 database is correct in the event of an actual emergency in the future.
What is EMS billing and how does it work?
The demand for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is the highest it has ever been, and while revenues have shrunk, the cost of providing EMS continues to increase (equipment, supplies, training, etc.). EMS billing provides an avenue for fire departments across the nation to recover some of these costs and continue providing EMS to the public without significant increases in taxes or expenditures. EMS billing occurs when a person is transported to the hospital and is based on the level of care required. Residents (taxpayers) of Willoughby Hills and Waite Hill (contracted Fire/Rescue with WHFD) should incur no out-of-pocket expenses; only the insurance company will be billed. For non-residents, the insurance company will be billed and any unpaid portion will be submitted to the non-resident for payment as is required by law. EMS billing is an administrative aspect of our service, done after the fact by a contracted third-party billing company, and has no impact on the level or quality service provided by field personnel. No person will ever be refused service due to inability to pay.
What hospitals does WHFD transport to?
There are several determining factors that may affect which hospital emergency department a patient is transported to, but we understand that people have hospital system preferences, and we are in fact able to accommodate those preferences the vast majority of the time. There are a few exceptions. If a patient is in critical condition, typically we must transport to the closest hospital in order to get the patient stabilized. Afterwards, they can be transferred to a different hospital if appropriate. If the patient requires a specialty center (trauma, stroke, STEMI, etc.) we will highly encourage transport to a hospital that provides those required services. Our decisions are also influenced by staffing levels, pre-hospital protocols set by our Medical Control, and occasional hospital diversions. WHFD cannot transport to urgent cares or to the VA.
Who owns the fire hydrants?
While the fire department uses, flushes, and performs some maintenance on the fire hydrants, they are not owned by the city; they are owned and primarily maintained by the water department. These fire hydrants, in Willoughby Hills, are painted all red. Some hydrants are on private property and are the responsibility of the property owner to maintain. We refer to these as "yard" hydrants and they are typically painted all yellow. There are just over 700 fire hydrants in the City of Willoughby Hills.
I requested no lights or sirens yet the fire department showed up with them on. Why?
Our responses are dictated based on the information provided by Dispatch and by our department policies and procedures as well as laws and standards that we must abide by. Many times, a situation may be more serious or dangerous than people realize, thus in many cases, we assume an emergency exists until we can arrive, assess, and mitigate the problem or determine otherwise. We drive with due regard and are cognizant of making our responses as safe and appropriate as possible given the information we are provided at the time of the call.
What is the point of the tornado sirens? I can't hear them in my house!
The intent of the Lake County warning (tornado) sirens is to notify people outdoors that there is an emergency taking place and to go inside and turn on the radio and/or TV for further information and instructions. They are not designed to notify people indoors. The sirens are also in place to be used during non-tornado-related emergencies as well such as hazardous materials spills or for an emergency at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant. The sirens are tested on the second Wednesdays of January, April, July, and October at 11:00am. Please do not call 9-1-1 asking why the sirens are sounding as this ties up emergency phone lines. For more information, click here.
What do firefighters do with all their down time?
We do not have as much down time as some people may think. Yes, there are periods of low emergency activity, which is unpredictable by nature, and we do get some personal time to rest or watch TV during designated times, but we have many responsibilities and duties to perform when we are not on emergency runs. Vehicles and equipment must get checked every day and the fire station must be cleaned. We perform building, vehicle, and equipment maintenance/repairs, fire inspections and other prevention & pre-planning activities, public relation & education events, non-emergency requests for service (detector checks, assists, etc.), physical fitness to reduce injury and illness of our personnel, and a vast array of training that must constantly be covered including orientation training of new personnel. In the Spring, we flush every fire hydrant in the city, service test the fire hose, and again perform maitenance on the fire hydrants in the Fall to ensure they are ready for the Winter cold. Every emergency run gets legal documentation, which is done after the call and the vehicles & equipment must be re-stocked, cleaned, and readied for the next run. Do we get to sleep on duty? Yes, but it is limited. We work 24-hour shifts and must be as sharp and ready to perform safely & efficiently at 3am as we must be at 3pm. One-third of our calls (that's about 700 runs) come between 8pm and 8am which is an average of two per night. Sleeping all night for most of our local fire departments here in Lake County is a thing of the past; there are simply periods of rest between runs and the associated duties. We are an insurance policy of sorts for the community- there when you need us- and we are confident at WHFD that you are getting good value for your tax dollars, and we are grateful for the overwhelming support we receive from the public.
Does WHFD handle animal emergencies?
While we are obviously primarily human-oriented, we are animal lovers and do respond to and have some equipment to handle animal emergencies. Animal hospital and rescue facilities are listed on our Links page; however if you choose to contact the fire department, we ask that you do not call 9-1-1, but rather, call Dispatch direct at 440-942-1111 and they will notify us. Human emergencies take priority but we will respond if at all possible to an animal emergency. We do carry animal oxygen masks for during fires and we have rescued animals from ravines and ponds with calculated risk. Cat stuck in a tree? We will respond to assess and try to help however we do not risk personnel safety by sending them in to trees to attempt removal. Typically, the cats will come down on their own when they are ready.
Does the fire department know when the power will be turned back on?
The short and simple answer is, no. We do not receive any special notifications from the power company regarding when power will be restored and we have no special ability to make them do it any quicker. The only priority we get as the fire department is in the event downed electrical equipment is preventing us from making a rescue in a life hazard situation at which point they will try to expedite. During storms and other periods of high activity involving downed wires and power outages, the power company goes in to "Storm Mode" and is unable to provide us with estimated times of arrival (ETAs) and typically go in to what they call "cut and run" where they will remove hazards and then move on to the next, leaving repairs and service restoration for another crew at a later time. Please do not call 9-1-1 or the fire station to ask when the power will be turned back on. We are unfortunately not able to answer the question and it ties up emergency lines. Emergencies for 9-1-1 include downed wires, equipment (transformers) & pole fires, and smoke or odors inside a structure after a brownout or blackout. Otherwise, the proper number to report an outage and ask about service restoration is: 1-888-LIGHTSS (And see our Links page for an online form to report power outages.) The fire deparment considers all downed power lines as energized until told otherwise by the power company. DO NOT touch or approach downed wires even if they look dead- a potentially deadly mistake. Finally, we will check downed wires of unknown origin, but if you have lost phone, cable, and/or Internet service, we recommend you notify your provider and schedule a service appointment as this is not an emergency the fire department handles.
Why does the fire department take fire apparatus to the grocery store?
As stated earlier, we work 24-hour shifts, which means, of course, we have to eat. We are allowed, by policy, to grocery shop for the shift using fire department apparatus. This ensures that the apparatus is always staffed and ready to respond to an emergency. It is also a good opportunity to get out and interact with the public. In most cases, a staff car is taken to the store, however, sometimes the shopping detail is done on the way back from an emergency run or while already out on some other detail or training. If a run comes in while shopping, we leave the groceries and respond; coming back to finish after the run if possible. Finally, meals are paid for by the firefighters themselves, not the city. The cost of the meals for that day are divided up equally amongst the on duty personnel.
Where can I take a CPR class?
While WHFD does not currently offer CPR classes at the fire station, there are many locations that do offer them. We refer those who ask to the programs conducted by our medical direction (University Hospitals). They offer both classes for the layperson as well as the healthcare professional. See the LINKS section of our website for more information.