Derby’s fire personnel had an active year in 2018, according to data submitted to the City Council by Fire Chief Brad Smith in his annual report. While last year was not as busy as 2016, which showed a spike in calls during the past years, total calls were up from the 2013-14 time frame.
Calls last year numbered 2,192, up from 2,117 in 2017. However, there were 2,469 calls reported in 2016.
A major reason for the change, Smith said, is that back in 2016, the department was answering all calls, even when it should have been an EMS ambulance.
“We were just burning up Rock Road and K-15 continuously going to what seemed like not very serious calls,” he said.
DFD officials talked with county staff and other departments and came up with a better way of responding so resources weren’t being wasted.
“It sure made a big difference,” Smith said of the policy change.
The highest visibility calls, of course, are building fires. Last year, there were 40, about the same as 2017, but up from 31 in 2016.
Vehicle fires remain about the same level at 12, as did motor vehicle accidents calls with 107. That number has varied from 99 to 118 per year from 2013 to 2018.
Smith, like other fire professionals, has long noted that the field has shifted during past decades from responding to blazes to more medical calls.
That’s because better codes and safety measures within buildings have reduced the number of structure fires. At the same time, an aging population has meant more medical calls.
Like other departments, Derby’s is on the front line of emergency medical situations and often responds before an ambulance can. Sedgwick County provides the ambulance service.
In 2018, there were 1,364 medical responses, up slightly from the 1,350 in 2017. That overall number has been in the 1,350 to 1,666 range during the past six years.
Smith has repeatedly stressed the need to be able to get to a scene within four minutes, which is a professional goal time. Of course, it’s not always possible, but the objective is to make it there in that time frame 90 percent of the time.
The department hit 88.8 percent, down a bit from 90.1 percent last year, but up significantly from 81.7 percent in 2013.
“We’re not real happy, but that happens,” Smith said of the time decline. “That’s a goal for us to get back up.”
He didn’t have a reason as to why the response times were slightly longer.
The department conducted 46 fire investigations. It determined that 27 fires were unintentional, 10 were due to equipment failure, such as space heaters. Six were undetermined and three were intentional.
It also undertook 390 annual fire inspections and 21 fire protection and sprinkler reviews for new businesses. In addition, staff flushed and inspected 666 fire hydrants.
Other activities included fire safety training and demonstrations, station tours and community activities, such as open house, being in a parade and taking part in a blood drive.
Derby also has taken a major role in helping out Sedgwick County firefighters under its mutual aid agreement, responding to 276 county calls. In return, the county came to help in Derby 65 times. It also has a similar agreement with McConnell Air Force Base, Mulvane, Rose Hill and Wichita, although those calls are less frequent.
Among the year’s highlights, Smith said, was successfully completing a Homeland Security grant for a rescue boat. Boats also went to Hutchinson and Sedgwick County. Smith created a position for a part-time shelter coordinator. Also, all the district’s schools received a safety inspection.
Derby Crime Stoppers is in the process of disbanding. After that process is formally completed, Derby will be part of the Wichita/Sedgwick County Crime Stoppers.
Linsey Cutsinger, who serves on the Derby group’s board, said it is necessary to make a change.
“We thought it was time to get the wheels turning,” he said. “I think it’s time to pass the torch and improve the service to the citizens of Derby. If we didn’t feel that wasn’t going to happen, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing,” he said.
Among the factors is that the board is aging.
“I’m one of the youngest guys on the board and I’m 68,” Cutsinger laughed. Also, its members aren’t “too technologically advanced” he said.
As part of the changes, The Rotary Club of Derby will be taking over the popular annual citywide garage sales event from Crime Stoppers.
That’s a positive change, Cutsinger said.
“People asked to pay for the garage sale entry online, and we didn’t have that ability,” he said. “Rotary has the people who know how to do that stuff.”
Plus there’s the expenses of technology upgrades.
“We wanted to improve the service and to do that the software we needed was cost-prohibitive,” he said.
Crime Stoppers of Wichita/Sedgwick County already has the latest software, he said.
Despite it not being a formal organization, Derby will still be represented in the Crime Stoppers movement as there will be three members from the city on the Wichita/Sedgwick County board. They will include one of the current board members along with representatives from the police and the school district. The countywide organization will now cover rewards for Derby-related crimes, he said.
Cutsinger said the change will be “a better product.”
Employing advanced smart phone technology is necessary, he said.
“How many people actually call someone and talk now?” he asked.
Derby police chief Robert Lee calls the change “very forward thinking” and credits the group’s board for taking the initiative.
“Derby Crime Stoppers made a very progressive decision,” he said. “I think it will be a very good thing for Derby.”
Lee pointed out that Derby was the only city in the county with its own Crime Stoppers program, and while it has been successful, it’s time to join the bigger program and employ more technology.
With that in mind, there’s a downloadable app called P3, a multi-lingual tip management system allowing the public to submit secure, anonymous tips to Crime Stoppers programs and law enforcement agencies with complete confidence.
That anonymous nature – along with the cash rewards – makes Crime Stoppers such a successful program, he said.
To get a reward in the case of an arrest involving a felony crime, tipsters are given a code number to collect the money. Their names are never taken and their contact information is not recorded.
Lee said Derby citizens should appreciate the work its hometown volunteers have done in the past.
“They are a group of dedicated men and women,” he said. “They’ve done a lot they can be proud of.”
The new number to report a crime is 316-267-2111. The new web site is www.wichitasedgwickcountycrimestoppers.com. The free P3 app for Apple and Android devices may be downloaded from the site.
What is considered the kickoff event for Derby’s historical 150-year anniversary celebration this year will take place Saturday night, and some tickets are still available for purchase.
The Derby Community Foundation’s annual fundraiser, Uncorked, is set for this Saturday at The Venue in Madison Avenue Central Park. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Derby Community Foundation Executive Director Theresa Hearn says the best way to experience Uncorked is to walk around and take in all the activities of the event.
“We want people to mingle and walk around The Venue to participate in activities like the Derby Trivia Contest, Super Silent Auction, dancing, Cork Pull, a photo booth, Mystery Boxes and more,” she said.
Hearn says they have made an effort to increase seating this year, but she is encouraging people to mingle and make the most of their Uncorked experience.
Because of the cold temperatures, attendees will be allowed inside the foyer area of the Venue starting at 6:45 pm. They will be held there until the event officially begins at 7 p.m. Hearn suggests people don’t arrive too early.
It is recommended that you brush up on your knowledge of Derby history before the event. The winner of the Derby history trivia contest will get $150 in cash and a very nice 150th Derby anniversary goodie basket.
The food this year has expanded with two food areas featuring a large variety of appetizers. Three bars are also available serving samples of fine wines and craft beers.
Hearn says they have some awesome items available in the Super Silent Auction and Mystery Boxes. “Folks will want to be sure to check them out,” she said.
A Fund the Future Auction will start at 8 p.m. This will be an opportunity for those who want to directly support the transformative work of the Derby Community Foundation to make a cash donation.
“As the official kickoff event for the 150th Anniversary of Derby, we hope that residents will attend Uncorked 2019 to celebrate the rich history of our town and to support the mission of the Derby Community Foundation, which is to enrich the quality of life in the Derby area,” Hearn said.
Some tickets are still available for the event and can be purchased from any DCF board member. Tickets will continue to be on sale through 1:00 p.m. Friday at the Derby Welcome Center, 611 Mulberry. Tickets are also available for purchase online until midnight on Friday evening. A limited number of tickets will be for sale at the door on Saturday.