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Iowa City Fire Crews Use Count-Up Clocks to Save Time

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IOWA CITY, Iowa Over last few years, Iowa City fire officials have been trying new ways to save precious seconds when they get called out.

"A fire doubles in size every minute. Thirty seconds, a minute, whatever that delay may be, it's not only the public's safety but our safety," said Iowa City Firefighter Clint McFarland.

The department's latest effort is what's called a count-up clock. Fire officials finished installing them at all four fire stations, last summer.

When emergency calls come in the clocks automatically start counting up from zero, measuring turnout time, which is the time it takes to get crews out the door.

"How long it takes somebody to recognize they have an emergency, get to a phone, we can't control that at all. The one thing we can control is how long it takes us to turnout," said Deputy Fire Chief Roger Jensen.

The goal is to get crews out in 60 seconds for EMS calls, 80 seconds for fires and special ops, which require heavier gear.

Firefighters said the ticking clocks have been pushing them to be faster. They said they're constantly looking for new ways to be quick.

"I keep my straps in a certain way so they're easier to grab. That's a three second fix. You do a few three second fixes, it adds up," said McFarland.

It really has added up for the department. Fire officials estimate since May they've taken an average of 20 seconds off their turnout time.

"That's a difference, that's a big difference," said Jensen. "Minutes and seconds really, really count."

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