How many times have you heard a person say, “I called for the ambulance, why did you send the fire truck?” This is a common question asked in many neighborhoods, and it seems logical from the average citizen.
More than 80 percent of most municipal fire department’s workload is Emergency Medical Services (EMS). In the 1980’s, EMS started integrating into many fire departments in the country/ Why not–it’s a force of personnel that are there for 24 hours and have many overlapping duties, such as rescue.
With the extra responsibility, fire departments started adding personnel to staff the ambulances. As communities became accustomed to the ambulance service, more and more citizens utilized the service to the point that the limited number of ambulances could not support the call volume.
Since payroll is the largest cost in paid municipal departments, in conjunction with incidents of fires decreasing, what better way to solve the shortcoming than to cross-train firefighters and place medical equipment on the fire engines. This would ensure medically trained personnel with medical equipment would arrive in the recommended 4-minute window without having to double or triple the number of staffed ambulances.
All Hazards Response
Since this medical addition, firefighters now respond to water rescues, lifting assistance, hazardous materials incidents, and technical rescue. Recently, firefighters are responding to active shooter events.
All of these services require more training and addition of some equipment on the fire engine. Today, that same vehicle that only carried water and hose to fight fire now carries a variety of first response equipment, which should change the mindset from fire engine to emergency first response platform.
This trend will continue, as the scope of practice for a firefighter continues to expand, which in turn demands more salary, thus limiting the number of personnel on duty to maintain a level cost to the community.
So the next time someone asks why the fire truck was sent, you know it is just the first response platform equipped with a variety of equipment and a few highly and diversely trained firefighters (first responders).