Oregon’s former Secretary of State, Phil Keisling, weighs in on the reality that most fire departments are primarily responding to EMT calls, and offers some interesting solutions:
This isn’t just a big-city problem. In 2013, a faculty-led research team for Portland State University’s Center for Public Service (which I direct) analyzed two years of 911 calls for three small cities collectively contracting with a nearby city’s fire/EMS department. Known medical calls comprised 75 percent of these incidents.
Our team identified a number of lower-cost operating alternatives, such as adding many more ambulances or specially-designed Rapid Response Vehicles (RRVs) to produce faster response times. We learned of one jurisdiction that had strategically purchased a three-bedroom house in a high 911-call generating area near a nursing home for an ambulance and its crew.
Vastly increasing the number of pre-positioned ambulances and adding RRVs aren’t the only potential innovations. One veteran firefighter I know suggests motorcycle-riding paramedics, especially during rush-hour traffic jams, equipped with basic medical kits including heart defibrillators.
Unnecessarily high operating costs are the most visible result of clinging to an expensive, “just-in-case” delivery model for this core public service. Another is the unnecessary wear and tear on expensive fire trucks, which can easily cost $1 million or more. (Last year, 4,000 new ones were purchased across the country.).
Perhaps the biggest cost of the status quo is the least discussed. When scarce fire/emergency medical personnel are routinely dispatched for non-emergencies — and then a bona fide, “every-minute-counts” emergency does occur, especially near a now-vacated station — it’s cold comfort when a 10-minute response time from a backup crew is a few minutes too slow to save a 65-year-old in sudden cardiac arrest, or a 7-year-old suffering a severe allergic reaction.
Read the whole article here.