Safe by Design

mike-screenBy Mike Binder, Class 27
Director of Marketing,

The Class 27 Blog: This is a blog series about the experience and impact of Scottsdale Leadership’s core program. The program informs, inspires and empowers leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community. Scottsdale Leadership is an Arizona Leadership Program.

It’s easy to think of Scottsdale as a place that has it all. Beautiful golf courses, incredible shopping, unparalleled resorts, more restaurants than you could possibly imagine. Living here amongst the beauty and fine weather is a blessing for many. So it’s easy to overlook the things that aren’t right in front of you every day. For example, your safety. You won’t find a community with finer police and fire departments in the country than in Scottsdale. For Safe Communities Day, Scottsdale Leadership Class XXVII met at the Scottsdale Police and Fire Joint Training Facility, a $2.1 million, 13 acre facility located just across the Scottsdale border in neighboring Tempe.

This state-of-the-art facility is the only one of its kind in United States, and features computerized natural gas props, a smoke maze room, indoor firing ranges, a firing line jogging track, SWAT team training areas, and even a 1 mile pursuit driver training track. What’s more impressive than the facility however is the program behind it.

Most cities police and fire departments work completely independently and Scottsdale saw this as a problem. In February of 2011, then city manager David Richert merged the Scottsdale Police and Fire Departments into a single Public Safety Department. This new structure saves more than $6 million each year by merging many of the two department’s functions. The merger has created a model for Police and Fire Agencies across the globe.

Our day began with Lieutenant Eric Williams of the Scottsdale Police Department and Deputy Chief Jim Ford of the Scottsdale Fire Department outlining how the day would play out. We then met our generous day sponsor, Chief Operating Officer John Wilson of PMT ambulance. To give us an overview of this revolutionary departmental structure, Chief of Police Alan Rodbell took us through the thinking that created this new system.

Chief Rodbell then broke us into groups to see three different situations we would be interacting with, situations that Scottsdale Police face on a regular basis.

Session 1: Use of Force Standards and Options with the Scottsdale SWAT Team. SWAT Officers took us through some of the scenarios that they face, and how they determine the level of their response. Their priorities are always the safety of the public, their fellow officers, and of the suspect, in that order. We were then taken into a live fire exercise to show the kinds of situations SWAT Officers face, and how quickly they must react.

Session 2: K-9. We met Officer Coffee and his K-9 partner, “Havoc”.  He explained to us that Havoc is a Belgian Malinois, and all Scottsdale Police Dogs are of this breed. They are born and trained in Europe, then come to their departments for final training at age 3. Havoc’s training includes obedience, agility, tracking, evidence searches, open area and building searches, as well as narcotics or explosives detection.


Session 3: Firearms Training Simulator. We were then taken into the FATS training room, where video scenarios were projected on a wall and we held realistic firearms that shot lasers into the computerized system.  WE took turns assessing situations that officer’s face, often with life threatening results.

As we broke for lunch, we all felt a new-found respect for the burden police officers face every day keeping us safe.

After lunch Assistant Chief Ryan Freeburg and Deputy
Chief Jim Ford discussed the history and makeup of the Scottsdale Fire Department, as well as its involvement with a Valley Wide Regional Dispatch Center, which ensures that emergencies are prioritized by proximity to available resources, not by city borders. Tempe Fire might be first on scene in Scottsdale if they are the closest; this regional agreement plan is yet another model for the rest of the country.

Another feather in Scottsdale’s cap is that it is one of the safest cities in the country because of legislation introduced in 1982 mandating that all buildings, both residential and industrial, had to have sprinkler systems integrated into the build. The widespread use of sprinklers have cut the risk of dying in a fire by 82%, and since 1982, Scottsdale has one of the lowest incidences of fire death of any country in the world!

Chief Jim Ford shared with us a video about the Station Nightclub fire that took the lives of 100 attendees in less than 6 minutes. Chief Ford described all the issues that were at play and how they impacted Scottsdale’s entertainment district. We then saw a video of a nightclub fire in downtown Scottsdale. While it mirrored the beginnings of the tragic Station Nightclub fire, it resulted in zero deaths in Scottsdale.

We then went outside to see a sprinkler system demonstration. A trailer with home furnishings on both sides separated by a wall in the middle was identical except the left side had no sprinkler system, while the right side did. The left side was set on fire and the fire spread quickly, completely engulfing that side in less than two minutes. They then set the room with a sprinkler system installed on fire. The fire was detected by the sprinkler system in about 1 minute, which engaged and put out the fire while also sounding an alarm. Chances are people living in that home were going to walk away safely. In fact, fires in homes in Scottsdale with sprinkler systems typically incur about $2,166 in damages, while unsprinklered homes incur $45,019 in damages. Chief Ford stated, “You can always dry things out, but you can’t unburn them.”

We then went outside with the fire department through a rotation of different fire department experiences.

Experience 1: Fire Extinguisher Practice featured a gas propelled fire and hands-on training using effectively a fire extinguisher. Turns out, most people use extinguishers improperly! Always use a sweeping motion at the base of the flames.

IMG_2174Experience 2: Ladder/Tower Truck. Teams went to the Ladder Truck where we put on helmets and gloves and went up in the extendable basket above a building to see how firefighters are placed on a roof to open a hole that allows gasses and smoke to vent, preventing built up gases within from igniting, a dangerous situation called “flashover”.

Experience 3: Search & Rescue in Smoke Filled Building. In this scenario, we donned full firefighter gear, including an obscured gas mask to simulate zero visibility inside a burning building. We worked as a team on hands and knees to find our way through and out of the building.IMG_2061

Experience 4: CCR Training. CPR is old news! A more effective and reliable method is called CCR, cardio-cerebral resuscitation, and it’s a big change. If you see someone who suddenly collapses and their heart has stopped, lock your hands together one on top of the other, put the heel of the lower hand in the center of the victim’s chest, and push hard and fast, 100 times per minute. When first responders use the new technique, they save three times more lives than they did with standard life-support techniques.

We returned back to the main building and Police Lieutenant Eric Williams and Deputy Fire Chief Jim Ford recapped the day. I think it’s safe to say that we all had a new-found respect for what these fine people do for us each and every day. And while we might not interact with them on a regular basis, it is so good to know that they will be there should we ever need them here in Scottsdale, one of America’s safest cities.


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February 28, 2013 · 9:58 am

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