Stop Sending Fire Trucks On Medical Calls, OC Grand Jury Report Concludes

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A recently released Orange County grand jury report titled “Where’s the Fire?” Stop Sending Fire Trucks to Medical Calls” challenges this widespread practice.

In Orange County, nearly 80% of all 911 calls to fire departments are for medical services. The report highlights potential issues with the deployment model of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), which Fullerton plans to join, along with other fire departments in the city.

“Sending a 36,000 to 60,000 pound fire truck or ladder truck down residential streets for strictly medical calls is not only dangerous and expensive, it also causes unnecessary wear and tear on our streets. “, says the report.

The Grand Jury’s findings include:

  • Despite using a tiered dispatch system, Orange County Fire Authority resource deployment for medical response is the same for nearly every call, resulting in unnecessary wear and tear on expensive firefighting equipment and public infrastructure.
  • Ambulances or small squad vehicles are often the most suitable response to medical calls and do not compromise the quality of medical care
  • Over-deployment of firefighters for medical calls contributes to the current climate of firefighter fatigue.
  • Response code 3 (lights and sirens) is overused by the OCFA, unnecessarily putting responders and the public at risk.

The Grand Jury’s recommendations include:

  • All Orange County fire agencies use criteria-based dispatch protocols and send a single unit response to incidents triaged as non-life threatening.
  • The OCFA should park a paramedic squad vehicle, which is more agile and less expensive to operate, in place of a second engine at stations with high volumes of medical calls.

The Grand Jury investigation “also uncovered a breakdown in communication and trust between the Orange County Emergency Medical Service (OCEMS) and the Orange County Fire Chiefs, which include the Fire Chiefs of Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) and various city fire departments.

The report commended the City of Placentia’s recent changes to its emergency medical response protocols after leaving the OCFA, which have resulted in improved response times to medical calls.

To read the full report, visit http://www.ocgrandjury.org.

Table included in OC grand jury report.

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