Interesting Article Sent in by a Reader – “Firefighters Become Medics to the Poor”

Seagrave 2006 front

If you were out of town for Labor Day weekend, you may have missed this article (like I did). Thanks to a reader for sending. From the New York Times on Sept. 3rd:

“Washington’s fire department, which has not faced major layoffs, is dispatched along with Emergency Medical Services to almost all emergency calls in the belief that it can provide the quickest response. It gets more such calls per capita than just about any other fire department in the nation, and a disproportionate number come from poorer neighborhoods like Trinidad, where Engine 10 is based, in the Northeast section of the city.”

You can read the full article here.

Should firefighters be responding to medical calls?

4 Comment

  • If they are the most efficient first responders, then yes. I do find it strange that sometimes DCFD sends full firetrucks, even to roll drunks.

    The bigger problem, which is also the crux of the article, is the changing role of emergency services to provide care to the accutely infirmed and chronically diseased in lieu of access to the most basic health care or maitenance. It may in fact be more cost effective and easier for municipalities to justify this approach under a general emergency management plan than to subsidize it strictly as medical costs (EMS, ER, etc).

  • you asked: “Should firefighters be responding to medical calls?”

    The question isn’t really this simple, and the answer is even more complex. What we really need to decide is if we want/need a combined Fire/EMS service like many surrounding jurisdictions have [Montgomery and Fairfax have fairly well functioning versions]. Or we go with a separate Fire Dep’t and a separate EMS provide [whether municipal or commercial as some cities out West do].

    The system we have now clearly doesn’t work because Firefighters are being asked/compelled/forced to do something they don’t want to and weren’t hired for.

    In Montgomery and Fairfax all Firefighters [except for a few old guys & gals] are also EMT’s. You’re scheduled each shift as being either on fire apparatus or the ambulance. Either we bring in all future FF’s here as both and have a combined service, or we split them up now.

    The even bigger issue is EMS and ER’s being used as primary care. It’s going to take full healthcare overhaul [and universal coverage] to fix that. A lot of what EMS is now is just a free cab ride to the hospital for many.

  • I think DC now requires all firefighters to be EMTs too, right? Also, I know often its just a manpower issue, in that EMTs get a call for someone having trouble breathing (for example), and when they get there they find out its a 350 pound guy up ten flights of stairs, thus they need lots of help. As for why they drive the real big and expensive trucks, probably cuz its so damn fun!!!

  • They just ran the story on NBC 4 and they said that 30 callers where responsible for placing 2000 calls in one year. They people are the very old who do not see a doctor and call 911 with problems including stubbed toes and a headaches.

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