New Chief on NBFD’s History of Innovation

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Newport Beach Fire Department Chief Chip Duncan talks about the department’s history of innovation during Speak Up Newport’s monthly meeting Wednesday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

A group of residents was introduced to the new fire chief this week and received a history lesson, and learned about some more recent programs, and facts and figures.

Newport Beach Fire Department Chief Chip Duncan spoke to about 40 people Wednesday during Speak Up Newport’s monthly meeting.

Duncan was appointed as interim fire chief earlier this year and was recently promoted to the top of the department. He feels incredibly lucky, he said.

The new chief went over some interesting numbers during the meeting.

Every day there are 38 firefighters on duty covering 26 square miles, Duncan explained.

The department responded to 11,826 total calls in 2016. Hitting that 10,000 barrier was a big deal a few years ago, he noted. The number of total calls has increased at a trend of approximately three percent each year, he added.

Average response time is 3 minutes and 42 seconds.

“We’re pretty proud of that,” Duncan said.

During the busy summers or on the far end of the peninsula can be a bit tough, he said.

Duncan also pointed out that the department generates $3.8 million in revenue, primarily through billing insurance companies and medicare. This offsets a small portion of NBFD’s $48 million budget, which includes the lifeguards, he explained.

During the rest of his presentation, innovation was the word of the night.

“We have a history of innovation in the fire department in Newport Beach,” Duncan said.

Newport Beach created a volunteer fire department in 1911 and it became one of the first paid departments in 1927.

Striving to stay ahead of the curve recently landed them on the cover of the national “Journal of Emergency Medical Services” magazine in May.

Fire Chief Chip Duncan’s fellow Newport Beach fire personnel sit and listen to him speak during a meeting Wednesday.
— Photo by Sara Hall ©

The feature focused on the field implementation of +EMS and the Search, Alert, File and Reconcile model for health information exchange, which provides a patient’s medical information at providers’ fingertips within seconds.

Newport Beach was the only fire department in the country doing the program, Duncan confirmed as the audience applauded.

“Being on the forefront of innovation is important,” Duncan said. “It helps us drive what the next big thing is going to be.”

Duncan mentioned the 2012 Orange County grand jury report titled “Emergency Medical Response in Orange County: Where did all the ‘fires’ go? Long time passing. Apologies to Pete Seeger.”

The grand jury criticized fire departments that, although the vast majority of calls were medical emergencies, have not changed their response operation models.

“The emergency response communities have discussed developing new models, but little change has been accomplished,” the grand jury wrote.

Authors of the report recommended re-evaluating the response models by independent outside consultants.

“It was pretty scathing,” Duncan said.

Although, he didn’t think it applied specifically to the Newport Beach department.

“That, in my humble opinion… has never been the way we operated here in our city,” Duncan noted.

Newport has had a strong focus on the medical side for more than 50 years, he said.

They began advanced first aid in the 1960s and had emergency medical technicians on board by the 1970s. By 1975, the department had eight firefighters graduate as certified paramedics. In 1996, NBFD implemented paramedic transportation system.

The department has slowly progressed into the doing more emergency medical services over the years, Duncan said. About 80 percent of the NBFD incidents have a medical component, he noted.

They have always been on the forefront as things have evolved over the years, he said.

“We’re always looking down-range to see what is the latest, most innovative way to provide the highest level of service and care to the public,” Duncan said.

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