In an effort to respond to weekend emergencies more quickly, the University of Connecticut’s Fire Department has added a staff member to Friday and Saturday 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. shifts, giving them the ability to send out three ambulances.
“The extra person during our busy time slots gives us the ability to respond to more incidents,” Lieutenant Heidi Vaughn said. “We are now able to put three ambulances into play if need be, as opposed to just two.”
The additional personnel has decreased the response time to incidents as well as the amount of times that UCFD is forced to call on the town of Mansfield, Vaughn said.
At the start of the fall semester, always the busiest time of year for the fire department, the ability to send out an extra team is a huge benefit. Each weekend of the 2015 semester, nearly 50 emergency calls were made, almost all by 18 to 22 year olds, Vaughn said.
“The first weekend before classes even started we had 46 calls, which was definitely high,” Vaughn said. “The fall semester is always busier than the spring semester. I think that we do get proportionally more calls from freshman or younger students in the fall semester.”
The number of calls UCFD receives is extremely weather dependent, Vaughn said. From the start of school through Halloween will remain consistently busier than any other time of year.
In addition to increased medical calls, UCFD performs a fire drill in every dormitory and apartment building on the Storrs campus within the month of September, keeping the department busy even during the week. However, if the fire alarm goes off in September that does not mean it is a drill.
“Fire alarms can overheat if it gets really warm, especially in attics and boiler rooms, but with the heat this time of year it is always a challenge,” Vaughn said.
Last Wednesday, for example, during the undergraduate student government weekly senate meeting the alarms in the union went off due to a detector that overheated in the basement mechanical room of the building.
All the Next Generation construction covering much of UConn’s campus has also increased the volume of calls to the university department.
“We have many calls due to construction, medical and dust that gets mistaken for smoke,” Vaughn said. “The construction also impeded our response. We always have to be on our game with roads open and closed and figure out the best way of getting around."