Member Spotlight: Summit Fire & EMS

Summit Fire and EMS Authority serves a ski-resort community in the central Rockies. Summit responds to more than 3,000 emergency calls annually throughout their response area of some 479 square miles. Throughout the course of the year, they provide emergency medical, fire, hazardous-material, technical-rescue, and wildfire response and prevention services.

This keeps them true to their mission statement, which reads, “Unwavering dedication to serve our community with integrity, compassion and professionalism,”

Training and Education

Working with a full-time staff of sixty-three professional firefighters and twelve full-time civilian staff members—not to mention their many volunteers through Fire Corps—Summit Fire operates out of response stations in Copper Mountain, Frisco, Dillon, and Keystone, and an administrative office in Silverthorne.

With a lot of ground to cover, remaining united and succinct in their message on safety and accident prevention is very important. “The best way to deal with fires and other hazardous situations is to avoid them in the first place,” Community Resource Officer Steve Lipsher said.

In order to achieve a high level of adherence to safety standards, Summit Fire offers a far-reaching public education effort including annual fire-safety instruction for students at every elementary school, child car-seat installation, inspection and instruction, home-safety inspections upon request, and routine fire-safety inspections and complimentary fire-extinguisher training for local businesses.

In addition, the agency hosts annual events such as open houses and participates in several other similar gatherings organized by other public-safety organizations.

Summit Fire disseminates emergency information through a countywide alert system as well as through constant dissemination of safety information via the agency’s website and social-media links as well as through traditional media in the form of public-service announcements, press releases and media appearances and responses to incidents and general inquiries.

Playing Defense – Wildfires and Beyond

Speaking specifically to one of the biggest environmental risks in the region, Summit Fire takes wildfire education and preparation as serious as they come. In addition to the free and on-demand home and business, safety inspections mentioned above, Summit Fire also conducts two forms of defensible-space analysis for individual property owners: mandatory defensible-space inspections and courtesy defensible-space reviews.

The former are triggered by new construction and home additions that are governed under county ordinance, while the latter focus on general landscaping, “home hardening”, and defensible-space principles, in addition to the personal preparedness in the event of a wildfire. Topics covered include evacuation guidance and direction in documenting personal belongings, reviewing insurance, and establishing a reunification plan with family members.

Outside of the forests and community, Summit Fire is also pursuing accreditation with the Center for Public Safety Excellence, an intense, continuous evaluation that ensures the department can justify its efforts and resources in every aspect of its work.

They also collaborate with Colorado State University’s Heart Disease Prevention Program to provide on-site cardiac evaluation through a new CORE One mobile cardiac facility, and the department is pursuing on-site skin cancer evaluations for firefighters.

“Adding these services to our peer fitness evaluation program and physician duty-clearance requirements creates a continuous and well-rounded approach to monitoring and maintaining firefighter health,” Lipsher said.

Inter-Agency Collaboration

In addition to their commitment to bringing their extensive safety knowledge and preparedness to the citizens they serve, Summit Fire also partners with a variety of agencies and community organizations to further their mission statement and the progress of their staff. “Workplace safety for emergency responders begins with a solid foundation of firefighting skills,” Lipsher said.

Summit Fire collaborates with the Colorado Mountain College Fire Academy to provide students with these fundamentals. Here, Summit Fire leads the charge alongside a team of fifteen instructors from nine different area fire departments to train prospective new firefighters in safety practices while on the job.

Community Outreach

Summit Fire works closely with all of the public-safety organizations in Summit County on both emergency response and in community relations. In addition to the urgent multi-agency response to incidents such as medical problems, traffic wrecks, fires, the agencies routinely participate in large-scale training exercises.

They serve on numerous committees established, including oversight of the Summit County Communications Center. Summit has been establishing operating plans in advance of anticipated events, promoting safety messages, and conducting after-action reviews of incidents to improve future responses. Additionally, the organizations team up for public-safety festivals, public-education, and public relations campaigns.

Collaboration with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, the State Patrol, police departments, the Summit County Ambulance Service, and peripheral organizations including the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Keystone Resort Emergency Services Department has proven to be productive, efficient, and vital in serving an area with limited safety personnel yet major safety demands.

Utilization of Pool Resources

Summit Fire has taken advantage of the Safety and Loss Prevention Grant many times throughout the years. The department has updated exercise equipment for their Peer Fitness Training Program, exhaust-removal systems in apparatus bays, and added small carbon-monoxide detection units to first responder’s medical bags that immediately notify a crew if they have unexpectedly entered an area where carbon monoxide is present.

“The Safety and Loss Prevention Grant program has been a stable source of funding for Summit Fire’s Health and Safety Committee,” Lipsher said.

Summit Fire’s committee meets on a quarterly basis and reviews workplace injuries, as well as the condition of equipment and facilities. The committee consists of representatives from each of Summit Fire’s divisions and shifts in order to create a continuous dialogue about safety that involves the entire team.

Summing Up

Summit Fire exemplifies the understanding that the key to workplace safety rests in the fostering of a culture where reporting injuries and unsafe conditions is not only commended, but also an expectation of all staff. As a constant reminder of this, Summit Fire’s Statement of Safety hangs at all of their locations as a constant reminder that safety is everyone’s responsibility.

“Firefighters and staff should set a good example for the rest of the community when it comes to safe practices…keeping safety at the forefront of everything we do,” Lipsher said.

Summit Fire & EMS Authority carries the responsibilities of their job with them to the firehouse as well as when they are out in the community—whether it is giving back or being there when people need them most.

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