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Fire district encourages use of EVAC system

By Staff | Aug 27, 2019

Fire Chief Jeff Pawul

When responding to an emergency, one of the common obstacles faced by the Captiva Island Fire Control District is the act of accessing a home – because crews cannot get past the front gate.

Fire Chief Jeff Pawul explained that there are a handful of gated properties that are constantly trading ownership hands, plus gated rental properties and owners who change their gate’s access code or the gate itself. Historically, the district has kept a list of gate access codes, but that has became hard to do.

“We’ve had issues of not being able to get into properties,” he said. “In the past, we kind of had a system where we would update our database of gate codes. Lately, it has become difficult to maintain it with the turnover in homes.”

“It’s become very cumbersome to maintain that on a daily basis for the amount of gates that we now have out here,” Pawul added, estimating that at least three-quarters of the homes have at least one gate.

And having to look up a gate code only adds to the district’s response time.

“Any extra time we don’t have to spend trying to get down your driveway to your house is, obviously, going to be to your advantage,” he said, noting that that pertains to fire and medical incidents. “And most medical calls, you’re not going to be in a condition to answer a phone or open a gate to let us in.”

He explained that the faster and easier crews can respond, the better the possible outcome.

“Seconds matter,” Pawul said. “An emergency is an emergency.”

So, the district is encouraging property owners to have an EVAC system on their gate.

“We’re trying to steer any new gates to that system – we’re trying to steer everyone toward that direction,” he said.

EVAC, or Emergency Vehicle Access Control, systems can be installed by garage door and gate companies. It costs an estimated $150 for one, with no future annual or maintenance fees associated.

“(You are) basically installing a radio-controlled transmitter that installs into your electronic gate opener that you already have in place. Every emergency vehicle has a push button opener, similar to a garage opener,” Pawul said. “With a push of a button, we can get right into the property.”

“This system is basically designed for emergency access,” he added.

Lee County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Mike Sawicki reported at the recent monthly meeting of the Captiva Community Panel that his agency also relies on the EVAC system to gain entry onto properties.

“There are a handful of residents on the island who do have them or similar systems,” Pawul said.

In most cases, property owners can keep their existing gate.

“For the majority of gates and opening systems, you do not have to change what you have to work with it,” he said. “Any new remote control gate can accept it – you don’t have to change anything.”

Island property owners with gates are encouraged to consider an EVAC system.

“We, as a fire district, would like to get away from having to maintain a list of gate codes,” Pawul said.

For questions or more information, call the fire station at 239-472-9494.