Many people often wonder why response time is so important to fire department personnel. There are really two very important reasons, first to save lives and second to reduce the damage to someone’s property. To truly understand what this means, let's look at two different examples.
During a medical emergency there are many conditions that limit our body’s ability to function properly. One important concern is being unable to get enough oxygen to all of our body’s systems so they can function correctly. While some of these systems and organs can survive for longer times without full supply of oxygen, it is the critical parts such as our brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and liver that begin to suffer irreversible damage in only a matter of a few minutes. So, even though a person may not have stopped breathing, they are still at great risk of permanent harm if they do not receive immediate medical care from Emergency Medical Technicians and Paramedics. The American Heart Association found that to limit long term damage, basic care must be on scene within four minutes or less and advanced care provided by paramedics must be on scene within six to eight minutes or less. When we examine how this breaks down we can see that there are a few minutes (on average 3 minutes) a person takes determining that a true medical emergency exists, a few minutes to notify emergency crews (typically 2-3 minutes), and actual response to the scene (anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending upon how far from the station) one can see that at a minimum 7 minutes could have past.
In the event of a fire, this time is equally as important. Studies conducted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that an average size bedroom or living room with typical furnishings can become fully engulfed in flames in less than 8 minutes. Smoke detectors will usually activate within 30-60 seconds of sensing smoke PROVIDED THERE ARE WORKING SMOKE DETECTORS PRESENT!!!! However, other research has found that the average time it takes for a person to leave was almost four minutes! Considering that a fire doubles in size every minute, at this time there is sufficient flame and smoke produced to limit visibility and cause significant difficulty breathing often resulting in the occupant being unable to completely exit the building. By the time the fire department is notified (possibly five minutes or longer), responds to the scene (again anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending upon how far from the station), firefighters are arriving at the point where it is critical they have adequate personnel to quickly control the fire. Considering the possible outcomes…do you want to wait?