Response Grid Ridiculousness

About 400 miles away from where A Tale of Four Street Corners takes place is another example of a ridiculous response pattern.

In an area where I once worked, a city was protected by a Paid City Fire Department and a private ambulance company.  Fire and ambulance service outside the city are delivered by one of two dozen independent volunteer fire departments.  An interstate cuts through the middle of the city, and a Paid City fire station is located next to an on-ramp to it. The city’s heavy rescue squad with extrication equipment is stationed there.

The interstate leaves crosses the city line about three miles south of ramp next to the Paid City fire station.  Then it is covered by a volunteer fire department, whose members get paged out and go to the station to pick up equipment.   To access the interstate south of the city line, the VFD must travel two miles from their station into the city, and then get on at the ramp next to the Paid City Fire station.

If there’s a crash, car fire, or cardiac arrest, fire trucks and ambulances from one station would drive past another to get there.  Why?  Money and turf protection.

Motor vehicle crashes pay, and the VFD would give up transport revenue to the city’s private service if anything changed.  As far as turf protection, the volunteer fire service is the county’s second most powerful political party.  Republicans are a distant third.  The individual VFD’s take care of each other pretty well with mutual aid agreements, but the Paid City Fire Department is generally left out of them.  Interstate calls can also be glory calls that some firefighters and EMT’s believe they are entitled to go on, even if someone else is closer.

I understand the argument that response times don’t matter.  I left a service that used aggressive street corner deployment for one that has fixed stations.  I believe that the quality of care delivered by a service whose people can sit in a building between calls makes up for the additional two minutes it takes to walk to the ambulance.  But we should still send the closest unit.

So imagine crashing on an interstate and being trapped in your vehicle.  Your children scream that they are hurt but you can’t get to them in the back seat. Would you care which fire district you were in?  I wouldn’t, but unfortunately the people in charge do.

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