Impact on Residents

UNDERSTAFFED AMBULANCES

Ambo

In order to exclusively staff firefighters at Station 207, the Fire Chief has removed all civilian medics from the ambulance (Medic 207). Instead, since June 20th, the Fire Chief has staffed Medic 207 with only one “firefighter medic” and a firefighter driver. A second “firefighter medic” has been staffed on the fire engine (Engine 207), although Engine 207 was not equipped with ALS equipment until July 2nd—almost two full weeks after medics were removed from Medic 207.[i]

The reason that only one “firefighter medic” is being staffed on Medic 207—while all other ambulances are staffed with two medics—is that the Fire Chief has failed to recruit a sufficient number of “firefighter medics” to fully staff even a single ambulance (Medic 207) and a single fire engine (Engine 207). Indeed, the Fire Chief has been forced to expend overtime to fill even the single “firefighter medic” position on Medic 207. Worse, this staffing problem has not been limited to Medic 207. When a “firefighter medic” has not been available to staff Engine 207, the position has been filled by a traditional BLS firefighter.

Since June 20th, the Fire Chief has staffed Medic 207 with only one “firefighter medic” and a firefighter driver.

In the month of July, the “firefighter medic” position on Engine 207 was not staffed for the entirety or a significant portion of nine days (almost 30% of the days in the month)—with the result that Medic 207 was staffed with only one “firefighter medic” and Engine 207 did not have a second “firefighter medic” to deliver to the scene of an EMS call.[ii]

In spite of his failure to recruit “firefighter medics,” the Fire Chief is still planning to remove all civilian medics from Station 205 in the coming months—again, by staffing the ambulance (Medic 205) with only one “firefighter medic” and a BLS firefighter driver. As was the case with Medic 207, the medics currently assigned to Medic 205 will be transferred to other ambulances in the City (except for Medic 207).

The Fire Chief has stated that staffing ambulances with only one “firefighter medic” is “a means to an end.” The truth of the matter is that it is a significant—and unnecessary—degradation of existing service levels. Sufficient civilian medic staffing currently exists to fully staff Medic 207 with two medics. The Fire Chief simply refuses to do so.

Sufficient civilian medic staffing currently exists to fully staff Medic 207 with two medics. The Fire Chief simply refuses to do so.

Do you live in an area that is currently (or will soon be) served by an understaffed ambulance? Click here to view the primary response areas for Station 207 and Station 205.

DECREASED ALS CAPACITY & INCREASED ALS RESPONSE TIMES

Staffing two medics on each ambulance—as the existing EMS delivery model does—ensures that the most serious EMS calls can be handled by dispatching the closest ambulance and the closest fire engine. As a result of the Fire Chief’s decision to staff Medic 207 with only one “firefighter medic,” it has now become necessary to dispatch at least three apparatus to many serious EMS calls: Medic 207 (with only one “firefighter medic”), the closest fire engine (with traditional firefighters), and a second ALS resource (either a second ambulance or an EMS supervisor) to deliver a second medic to the scene.

Dispatching three apparatus, responding with lights and sirens, to a serious EMS call—when only two were previously required—is both inefficient and dangerous. It also increases the time required for a second medic to arrive on the scene. Finally, it makes a second ALS resource (an ambulance or an EMS supervisor) unavailable to respond to other EMS calls.

 As a result of the Fire Chief’s decision to staff Medic 207 with only one “firefighter medic,” it has now become necessary to dispatch at least three apparatus to many serious EMS calls.

These unintended (but clearly foreseeable) consequences of the Fire Chief’s plan will only be exacerbated when the ambulance at Station 205 (Medic 205) is also staffed with only one “firefighter medic.” Medic 205 routinely responds to areas of the City (such as Old Town) that do not have a second ambulance readily available.

The Fire Chief’s decision to purposely understaff ambulances with only one “firefighter medic” has thus resulted in a reduction in ALS capacity and an increase in ALS response times for the most serious EMS calls—the exact opposite of what his plan promised to do. Despite these consequences, the Fire Chief has recently stated that staffing a “firefighter medic” on Engine 207 has “proven to be effective in a short period of time.”[iii] The actual results prove otherwise.

The Fire Chief’s decision to purposely understaff ambulances with only one “firefighter medic” has thus resulted in a reduction in ALS capacity and an increase in ALS response times for the most serious EMS calls—the exact opposite of what his plan promised to do.

Just in the month of July, a third apparatus was dispatched 33 times simply to provide a second medic on the scene of a call with Medic 207.[iv] Fourteen times, it was a second fire engine. Twelve times, it was an EMS supervisor. Seven times, it was a second ambulance. When civilian medics are removed from Medic 205 (one of the three busiest ambulances in the City), these numbers will likely more than double.

[i] Alexandria Fire Department. (July 2, 2015). Information Bulletin 15-044: Engine 207 – In Service as ALS Engine.

[ii] APMA analysis of staffing information.

[iii] Email from the Fire Chief to fire department employees dated July 8, 2015.

[iv] APMA analysis of dispatch information.

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