Construction on Fire Station 5 at 7800 Mount Vernon Roadd will begin in March, Fire Chief Keith Sanders said. (Sandy Springs)

Construction for Fire Station 5 in the Sandy Springs northeastern panhandle should begin in March, Fire Chief Keith Sanders told City Council during its annual retreat on Jan. 30.

The city supported the contractor’s request for a March start date so it has time to order supplies and materials. The fire station will be located at 7800 Mount Vernon Road.

“They’ve secured the contracts with the subcontractors as well as ordering the steel and the brick, Sanders said.

In reviewing 2022 accomplishments during the retreat, Sanders listed the completion of a new Fire Station 2 at 135 Johnson Ferry Road that replaced the former station that was built in 1969. The Fire Department had its ribbon cutting on Oct. 20.

“As of this morning, the fire department is 100 percent staffed. We had our final candidate that we’ve hired, his first day is today,” he said.

The Fire Department had 13,439 calls for service in 2022, he said. Those included:

  • 4,808 EMS calls
  • 5,301 good intent calls (Good intent calls include incidents such as dispatched and canceled en route, controlled burning, and steam or other gas mistaken for smoke, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.)
  • 2,257 incidents
  • 1,343 false alarms

Goals for 2023

One of the problems the Fire Department has with staffing is handling working hours lost when employees are out on workers’ compensation or Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time.

“They have newborns in the family. They want to take 12 weeks of that FMLA to be with their family and whether it be male or female and I can appreciate that,” Sanders said.

Overtime hours are used to address that.

Another issue are the mutual and automatic aid agreements with other jurisdictions. He said the SSFD prides itself on its automatic, seamless agreements with Atlanta and Roswell that assure no delay in coverage.

Over the last eight months, the North Fulton fire chiefs have been working on a regional response plan. The goal is that the three 911 centers in North Fulton communicate together so that the closest unit from any department is dispatched to an incident.

He said another element of that regional response plan is that when a large structure fire occurs in Sandy Springs, Roswell or Alpharetta that they have second-alarm and third-alarm assignments and a backfill strategy that’s automatically implemented throughout their dispatching systems.

Sanders said they are preparing for negotiations on ambulance service as the city is in a five-year contract with AMR for ambulance service that runs through the end of 2024. The city pays a subsidy to guarantee a response time of eight minutes or less 90 percent of the time on emergency calls.

As a way to reduce the time fire engines are sent on calls such as those to retirement communities when an individual doesn’t need transport to the hospital, the SSFD wants to support the ET3 program from the Centers for Medicare  Medicaid Services that AMR is using. The voluntary program enables ambulance care teams to transport patients to other health care centers or start treatment in place with a qualified health care partner on scene or via telehealth.

“The ET3 program allows them to work with doctors through iPads. So the doctors can actually see the patient there and possibly prescribe that prescription so they don’t have to transport and they also get reimbursed from Medicare,” Sanders said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.