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Story and photo by Liz Alper

May 24, 2017 (San Diego) - New La Mesa Fire Department chief Colin Stowell was this month's speaker at the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce's breakfast meeting at Marie Callender's on Wednesday morning.

Stowell oversees the La Mesa, Lemon Grove and El Cajon fire departments.  He was previously with San Diego Fire & Rescue and is now with Heartland Fire.  Chamber president Mary England says that Stowell is taking a hard look at the department and figuring out what needs to be changed. 

Stowell praised the three cities for being much more committed to public safety than San Diego, where he was before. 

The chief said that fire service is changing.  Only six percent of 911 calls are fire-related, with 87 percent being medical-related emergencies.  Stowell says he and the department are trying to find more ways to meet the demands of the community.  He listed some ways that they are trying to do that.

One of the ways is call triage.  Call triage prompts 911 dispatchers to ask callers for more information other than just basic information so that the department can determine whether or not to send an emergency vehicle.  Since this program was implemented, medical-related calls have decreased by 16 percent.

Another way is risk reduction.  This includes public education, but more importantly, emergency preparedness.  This not only includes response, but also aiding in the recovery process, such as providing shelter, etc.

Technology is also a major change being made.  The department is looking at implementing electronic devices such as iPads, etc. to better help firefighters and paramedics assist patients and easily access information on patients and victims.

Another new program describes the work of community paramedics.  For people that call 911 frequently for help with tasks that an average person could do on their own, but they can't, community paramedics act as social workers to help these people.

A problem that Stowell noted is that there is an increase in seniors from the San Carlos area calling 911, but other than that, the changes are working successfully and he hopes to implement more.

Upcoming La Mesa Chamber Events:

Taste of La Mesa - June 12 at the La Mesa Community Center, 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Mega Mixer - August 3 at Lantern Crest, 5:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

Summer Bash Business Expo - August 17 at the La Mesa Community Center, 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

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