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Fire department to retain presence on UConn Health in Farmington

FARMINGTON — The controversial plan to close the fire department at the UConn Health complex has been shelved and the school will consolidate the department into the existing UConn fire department in  Storrs.

The  plan will consolidate two independent departments and keep a fire department presence on campus with a number of key changes.  This new model will result in annual savings to UConn Health of over $1 million, according to the school’s statement.

The plan, effective Saturday, July 1, has been shared with Connecticut Police & Fire union and with the Town of Farmington.  The school will move forward with the reorganization and consolidation of the UConn Health Fire Department into the overall university’s Fire department.  Other operational changes in the plan are still being discussed with the union.

Glenn Terlecki, President of the Connecticut Police and Fire Union said in a statement:

“This is a great Union victory. Four months ago we were facing the closure of the UConn Health fire department. Today, we are happy to announce that the Fire department will remain open and continue to provide core emergency services to the Health Center community. Over the past several months, the Union presented convincing arguments to not only Health Center Administrators but also surrounding towns officials and State legislators proving to them that maintaining a fully functional fire department on the grounds of the Health Center was not only just a benefit but rather a necessity. Merging the Health Center fire department under the Storrs fire department, along with some structural changes, provides better financial stability while keeping core emergency services intact. There are still some policy and procedures to be negotiated but in general we are thrilled with the outcome.”

Major points in the plan include:

  • The two independent fire departments maintained in UConn Health Farmington and Storrs will consolidate personnel, management, equipment and operations, headed by one Fire Chief, based in Storrs
  • The staff at UConn Health Farmington will be reduced by 4 positions, all currently filled bargaining unit positions will be retained. Emergency services offered specifically on the campus of UConn Health will remain; namely, fire response, EMS response, hazmat response, and command/control of any outside resources called in to assist.
  • They will staff the UConn Health Farmington facility with a maximum of four firefighters per shift, down from five.  A division of the UConn Fire Department will be assigned to UConn Health with seventeen positions consisting of an Administrative Captain, and four platoons of four personnel each. Each platoon will be supervised by a Lieutenant. Minimum staffing  in the event of vacations, sick calls will consist  of three firefighters per shift . Previous staffing level requirements created a situation where overtime was required for any use of leave time. Minimum staffing  at UConn Health will be one officer, one firefighter/paramedic, and one firefighter/EMT. In the event of minimal staffing, response to certain calls will be supplemented by the municipal fire department. As the UConn Health Fire Department becomes part of the UConn Fire Department it will be led by the Fire Chief, based in Storrs.  Duty officers will be able to call on on-duty supervisors at either Storrs or UConn Health.
  • The EMS licenses for the UConn Health Fire Department and the UConn Fire Department will be combined through the State Department of Public Health Office of Emergency Medical Services.  Primary Service Area Responder assignment for the UConn Health campus will be retained to allow for the appropriate control over EMS service deployment on campus. EMS calls on campus will be handled by the fire department personnel on duty who will respond with a paramedic ambulance. If needed, mutual aid will be called to assist. The current ambulances will be stay on site it insure a working ambulance is available at all times.
  • Staff at UConn Health will have a minimum level of medical training. All UConn Health Police Department members will be trained to at least the Emergency Medical Responder level of care. It is expected that UCHPD will supplement the EMS response on campus.
  • Mutual aid agreements will be codified with local Fire so if not enough UConn personnel are available, other department can provide both fire response and emergency medical services.
  • After July 1, UConn Fire personnel will prioritize on emergency calls originating on the UConn Health campus. Requests to provide outside Fire/EMS assistance will require the direct approval of a UConn Fire Department supervisor.
  • Campus-wide teams at UConn Health will be trained to  provide initial or supplemental response throughout the campus.
  • A Training/Safety Officer position will provide training and safety program for fire department staff at both Storrs and UConn Health which will focus on increasing the familiarity of outside responders with UConn Health operations, layout, and hazards. Routine operations will be focused on meeting healthcare compliance mandates and preparedness by all staff (fire department and others) for emergency response.The plan is expected to result in over $1 million in savings.