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Development will impact emergency response times

Development will impact emergency response times

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In an article I wrote, published by the Napa Valley Register (“Negative effects of Justin-Siena land development,” July 1), five concerns were highlighted about the school’s proposal to establish retail chain stores on their property.

Briefly, the concerns were; greatly increased traffic, higher air pollution, creation of storm water runoff pollution, neighborhood residential property value reductions, and impairment of public health and safety capabilities related to the nearby Fire Station No. 3. Over the past several weeks, I have investigated the public health and safety issue in much more depth because of its obvious importance.

Fire Station No. 3, which includes a paramedic team, located at the corner of Solano and Trower, has a “first call” or first response assigned territory that covers the city essentially north of Trancas Street. It is estimated this area includes 15,000-20,000 residents. Of importance, this area includes a high concentration of senior citizen residences such as Rohiffs Manor, Redwood Retirement, Aegis, and the mobile home parks off Solano, north of Justin-Siena. As you would expect, seniors have a higher use-rate of emergency services.

Furthermore, occasions arise when Station No. 3 is assigned to respond to areas beyond its “first call” territory, when emergency vehicles from other Napa stations are already fully engaged. When an emergency call is received, the optimal assignment of emergency vehicles from Napa’s four fire stations is done almost instantly using a sophisticated Computer Aided Dispatch system. Using this tool, all four stations effectively are linked, and are interdependent on each other, to assure the most effective response throughout the city.

Clearly, any impairment in No. 3’s medical and fire response capability affects a very broad swath of Napa’s population; most directly and frequently the large north Napa population, and less often the remainder of Napa’s population. The retail chain store proposal impacts far more than the local Justin-Siena neighborhood residents. This is an issue for the entire city.

A recent Register article (“Fire station life: Moments of calm, then scrambling,” June 12) mentioned Station No. 3 on average responds to 2,330 calls per year, roughly six calls per day, and 70 percent are medical emergencies. I have learned Napa’s average emergency response time is a remarkable 4 and a half minutes. This is about the same response time established by the American Heart Association as necessary to begin basic life support for victims of cardiac arrest, electrocution, and other severe traumas. Longer response times greatly reduce survivability for these events.

I believe Justin-Siena’s proposal to build high-volume, high-traffic retail chain stores on its property along Solano, in very close proximity to Fire Station No. 3, will of necessity increase the station’s response time. As an example, Station No.3 frequently uses Solano northbound for its most direct route for emergencies in the mobile home parks. This is a narrow two-lane street lacking shoulders. If a northbound car tries to pull over to allow a fire truck to pass, the car will go into a steep ditch.

The addition of Justin-Siena retail chain stores along this street will at times result in traffic bottlenecks. In such situations the fire trucks will select an alternate route, but alternates are always less direct and require more time. Time, even an extra half minute, is precious in medical emergencies. It is inevitable that the proposed retail chain stores will lead to longer emergency response times and unnecessary property damage and fatalities. To claim this could never happen would be foolhardy.

This isn’t a case of discussing the degree of impairment to our emergency response system: low, medium or high; any impairment should not be tolerated for the health and safety of Napa community.

I am hopeful Justin-Siena’s board of trustees will recognize the jeopardy posed to the public’s welfare by its proposed retail store plan and withdraws its application. To build a retail chain store complex adjacent to one of the city’s key emergency response stations simply makes no sense; it should have never been proposed. The board should consider alternative revenue-raising strategies, of which there are many, that do not compromise the health and safety of Napa residents.

A notice was just issued by the city indicating that a public scoping meeting on the Justin-Siena proposal will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m. in the Napa City Council Chambers, 955 School St., Napa. At this meeting, open to all, the city will be soliciting comments on the scope of what should be studied to properly evaluate this proposal.

Public health and safety will be my No. 1 concern. Perhaps by that time the application will be withdrawn by the school’s board of trustees and the meeting be be unnecessary.

Anderson lives in Napa.

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