Through the implementation of Task Force Response procedures, the Columbus Fire Department has made headway in regard to being more efficient with its overall response time to a variety of emergency situations happening throughout the Columbus community.
On Monday evening, Fire Chief Dan Miller spoke during a Committee of the Whole Meeting held prior to the scheduled Columbus City Council meeting about how some procedural shifts have resulted in more efficiency, which ultimately can mean the difference between life and death.
Since the implementation of the Task Force in August, data recorded from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30 shows the department responded to 396 total calls. Two-hundred eighty-seven calls were answered in less than six minutes, 340 calls were answered in less than seven minutes. Fifty-six calls took longer than seven minutes to respond and just 11 calls – 2 percent of the total call volume – took first responders 10 minutes or longer to arrive.
The nationwide standard of response time set forth by the National Fire Protection Associated (NFPA) is for 90 percent of calls to be responded to in less than seven minutes, according to Miller. During the first half of 2018, released information shows that the department responded to 725 calls. Of that quantity, 595 calls were responded to in less than seven minutes, a figure that has increased to 86 percent during the second half of 2018.
More importantly, though, the number of calls that have taken responders more than seven and 10 minutes to respond to have declined. Data from the first portion of 2018 shows that 18 percent of the total call volume was delayed calls of seven minutes or more, and 4 percent were delayed calls of 10 minutes or more.
“There were 30 delayed calls of more than 10 minutes during the first part of 2018 – 4 percent,” Miller said. “Not a huge percentage, but some of them were very significantly delayed, like 25 minutes.”
Data from the second half of the years shows that greater than seven and 10 minutes responses have declined to 14 and 2 percent, respectively.
Day-to-day, Task Force response includes sending an ALS-equipped fire engine and ambulance to most incidents, released information from Miller shows, though he noted that this procedure has somewhat shifted. This forms a two-piece response no matter if the nature is fire or rescue related. Once an initial situation is evaluated and brought under control, the second unit typically returns to service, making itself available to respond to other calls.
Additionally, shift supervisors under the Task Force are given the discretion to adjust the response between urgent calls and non-urgent calls, increasing the availability of units responding to emergency calls.
Of the total call volume, Miller said that 85 percent of responses are EMS related and that on 25 percent of those calls, a fire engine and its associated tools are used in stabilizing the incident, removing trapped victims, air monitoring and possible fire protection.
“The task force is designed to ensure that the right resources are dispatched to calls based on their nature and severity every time,” Miller wrote in information presented to the Council. “This provides consistency …”
Ward 2 Council Member Troy Hiemer said he has heard inquiries from community members about why they see an ambulance and fire engine traveling in tandem to different calls. Hiemer, himself, also said he wondered if this was the best course of action since the vast majority of responses aren’t fire-related.
“The question is, if there is a second medical call what we do?” Hiemer asked of when both vehicles respond together. “ … So would it make more sense if on some of those calls we send two ambulances, so that you can respond to another call with an ambulance versus a firetruck considering most of our calls – 75 (percent) plus – are EMS calls versus fire calls? I understand the Task Force and am in favor of it, but I’m just wondering if maybe there is some tweaking that we could do so that we are not responding a fire truck for every call.”
Miller responded by saying that when the department learns that the response is just in regard to something like a lift assist, that typically just an ambulance responds.
“Early on they were sending both, kind of being overly proactive, but they have been getting more used to the system now, and now the shift supervisors are more aware and will send the ambulance by itself for (something like) lift assist,” the fire chief said.
“If EMS gets there and they can’t lift the patient because they are in a precarious position or where (he or she) may be too heavy, they can call for the engine to come out. But, it’s just the ambulance by itself most of the time.”
Mayor Jim Bulkey said he felt it was important for community members to have the opportunity to learn a little bit about what the fire department and first responders are doing in terms of ensuring community safety through the relatively new Task Force system.
“I think it’s fair to say that there have been questions within the public, and that was why we thought that this was a valuable lesson tonight to have you (Miller) in front of us and share with the public what we do and why,” Bulkley said. “It’s different than what many people are used to seeing in the City of Columbus, and we need to understand that and be able to answer the questions that the public has.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.