We have seen reductions in Fire and EMS. Not to the extent that some of the very large services but by and large just as painful. Couple this with my new found duties to run the executive side of our EMS service and you have the equivalent of another part time job added on to the work time and subtracted from the family time that was already nearly nonexistent.
Don't get me wrong I LOVE what I do. I live what I do. And I revel in the hey you're a firefighter (or EMS guy) can you help me/answer a question/recommend/tell me/show me stuff. A community connection that I don't take for granted. But the expectations are rising while at the same time we are being told to do more with the same or less resources. For example.
During my tenure in service to my county we have added three new EMS stations, closed one, and lost a number of fire brigades due to plant closures and the like. We have not changed the number of fire stations but now have fewer folks to man the apparatus. Not unusual. But last weekend when I took an open shift on the ambulance we drove by three stations that were dark. We responded 25 minutes to the call that was covered by the fire QRS from the local station. Apparently no one told me that only some stations man an ambulance during these low call times.
We have seen an annual increase in the calls for our ambulance from year to year but this year has been exceptional in the quantity of calls. So far this year, if we don't have anymore calls, we have run a record number of calls. Each call we get in the last two months of the year adds to that record, Our call increase is in the neighborhood of 25%. That's a lot of extra calls. But the biggest change in our calls is the number outside our normal service area. That increase was over 30%. What's next?
Well at a fire today only one engine and an ambulance were available. Four people to provide protection to our community. It occurs to me that this may be the future of our service. Provide minimal staff and hope for the best. Relying on second, third, and further alarms to bring in a force capable of taking on the task at hand. Something we would have done with first alarm personnel years ago.
The "Collective Us" can provide a solution to some of these problems. But it will take working together at a level unheard of in our area. Can we bring an ambulance staffed with one person and pick up another on scene to complete the crew? Should we respond a centrally located unit to every call to make sure that someone gets there in a reasonable amount of time? Stop looking at areas as mine or ours and start sharing resources Cover for each other and possible announce units out of service during nights so other trucks are aware of what area they are really covering at any given time. Possibly reduce the amount of equipment and increase the amount of paid staff. It's a thought, for the "Collective Us."