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Fire official ties speed humps to responder delays

Speed humps could be worse for ambulances, slowing them on the way to and from the scene


By Keith Upchurch
The Herald-Sun

DURHAM, N.C. — Durham's speed humps often delay firetrucks and ambulances in getting to their destinations and increase risk to those they're trying to serve, a fire official says.

Deputy Chief Chris Iannuzzi of the Durham Fire Department wrote a paper on Durham's speed humps while attending the elite Executive Fire Officer Program in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

A new paper by Deputy Chief Chris Iannuzzi claims that each speed bump adds a 10 second delay for fire trucks. (Photo/City of Durham, NC)
A new paper by Deputy Chief Chris Iannuzzi claims that each speed bump adds a 10 second delay for fire trucks. (Photo/City of Durham, NC)

Iannuzzi and Assistant Durham Fire Chief Andy Sannipoli recently graduated from the four-year program, which accepts only about 300 people nationwide each year.

In his research, Iannuzzi found Durham fire trucks are delayed an average of 10 seconds for every speed hump they travel over on the way to a fire or other emergency.

Because fire doubles every 60 seconds, delays can make a difference in the severity of damage and affect the outcome for someone having a heart attack or other medical emergency.

"Anecdotally, there have been cases when speed humps slowed firetrucks' arrival," Iannuzzi said. "We haven't collected specific data, so I can't go back and say it happened on a specific call, but we're trying to make sure we get that data."

Iannuzzi said that if a fire truck crosses several humps, the fire will likely be worse when firefighters arrive.

Likewise, firefighters often respond to medical emergencies when every second counts.

"For someone who's not breathing, every minute of delay in starting defibrillation means there's a 10 percent decrease in survivability," Iannuzzi said. "Then it starts to make a difference."

He cited a Texas study showing speed humps resulted in lost lives there because of emergency vehicle delays.

Iannuzzi said he couldn't document a case where a speed-hump delay caused a fire death in Durham, but there was one case that made him wonder.

"I was responsible for that call," he said. "A man died, and speed humps were there. It's impossible to say what caused it. Was there a delay? Yes. Was that delay what caused the man to die? I can't say, because I don't know at what point he died. But I think about it."

Iannuzzi said there are streets in Durham where he believes speed humps should be removed.

On Swarthmore Drive, for example, a fire truck must drive over four speed humps if it turns right, slowing it by 45 to 60 seconds, he said.

Iannuzzi said the Fire Department plans to be more assertive in opposing speed humps that would create a serious problem for emergency vehicles.

"We haven't asked that any be removed, but that's something that maybe we'll do," he added.

The problem can be worse for ambulances, because humps slow them in both directions and can delay a patient's arrival at a hospital.

Iannuzzi said the Executive Fire Officer Program teaches skills that benefit Durham.

"It helps develop skills and perspective on the fire service that help us run an effective organization," Iannuzzi said.

Copyright 2016 The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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