July 10, 2002
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BERKELEY, CA   The County of Alameda and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have announced a new partnership that will broaden the laboratory's access to emergency and fire services while extending the county's capabilities to the City of Berkeley.

The County's Board of Supervisors yesterday (July 9) approved a two-year contract to manage Berkeley Lab's Fire Department, effective August 1. The agreement maintains staffing and services at their current level at the laboratory while ensuring selected neighborhood coverage in the City as defined in an automatic aid agreement in 1994.

At the same time, Berkeley Lab will join a network of resources that includes 224 professional fire and emergency personnel spread across 16 stations, 21 engine companies, and 461 square miles in Alameda County.

"This is one of those arrangements in which everyone benefits," said Sally Benson, Berkeley Lab's Deputy Director for Operations. "The laboratory strengthens its capabilities through new associations, the City of Berkeley gains a larger emergency infrastructure, and the County broadens its capacity at the western end. The citizens of city and county will be the beneficiaries."

Mayor Shirley Dean of Berkeley echoed those sentiments. "As the fire season builds dramatically, it is comforting to see this kind of cooperation between our various fire-fighting entities," she said. "In partnership with the City of Berkeley Fire Department, the County and the laboratory can now assure our hillside neighborhoods the maximal response time and experience to ensure our safety and security."

Mayor Dean was among the first to recommend laboratory-community emergency service agreements years ago and was instrumental in developing the automatic aid agreement currently in place. Under that memorandum of understanding, laboratory fire personnel will answer calls from those areas in the City of Berkeley to which they can provide the fastest response. This presumes that the engine company isn't previously occupied with a lab emergency.

Berkeley Lab currently employs 12 full-time and three part-time firefighters. All who choose to remain with the unit will become Alameda County employees under the agreement.

Benson said the consolidation follows a trend that's been evident for years throughout California - gaining economies of scale through multi-agency response agreements that multiply the resources that can be brought to bear on incidents.

"Managing services like these is not one of the lab's core competencies," she said. "So we would rather rely on professional firefighting management capabilities, to give us a more integrated emergency services competency."

Among those additional resources that the county brings to Berkeley Lab are coordination of emergency training and exercises, large-scale exercises, emergency medical services, fire prevention services, administrative services, and specialized equipment, such as a fully staffed hazardous materials team, air support, search-and-rescue equipment, and a heavy rescue vehicle.

The change-over will be transparent to employees, Benson added.

Alameda County Fire Chief William McCammon welcomed the addition of Berkeley Lab's station and personnel to his department. "We have an exceptional team here, and bringing aboard the expertise and resources of Berkeley Lab will only make us stronger. Strategically, it gives the people of Alameda County a geographically broader, more integrated web of services."

The Alameda County Fire Department has been in business since 1993 and today is responsible for providing emergency fire and medical response as well as fire prevention services to all residents of the unincorporated areas of the county, plus the cities of Dublin and San Leandro.

Among its recent acquisitions has been almost $300,000 worth of emergency response equipment in the event of incidents involving weapons of mass destruction. Also, in partnership with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the department implemented a new Fire and Medical Communications Dispatch Center at the lab.

Berkeley Lab brings to the county a comprehensive menu of fire and emergency services, including paramedic and hazardous materials (hazmat) response. In 2001, laboratory fire-fighters responded to 681 calls, 74 percent of them in and around the City of Berkeley.