IAFF: Effective Strategies for Tomorrows EMS Systems
|By Brie Mathews|
|Sometime around mid-May, I received a phone call from John Hanley asking me if I would like to go to Minnesota for an IAFF EMS Conference to represent Local 798. I was told that I was chosen due to my experience as a paramedic/firefighter and my hard work on the H-3 Advisory Committee. At first I was honored to be chosen and even though Minnesota was hardly a place I was dying to see, I accepted the invitation proud to represent our Union. Then John told me that I would be attending the conference with James Vannucchi and suddenly it all made sense why I was picked
.no one else was willing to hang with Vannucch that long! Just kidding Jim! Actually, the 5-day conference (June 6th through 9th) was very interesting and I was pleased to be in the company of such a professional, yet entertaining fellow!
So, about the conference. In between opening and closing ceremonies, Brother Vanucchi and I were each assigned 6 workshops to attend. For the most part, we attended different lectures so that we could cover as much as possible of what was presented and report back to all of you. With that said, I will do my best to summarize each of the workshops I attended.
I. GIS: Geographic Information Systems
So what is GIS? Well, first of all, they made it very clear that it is NOT a GPS (Global Positioning System). Basically, the system is a computer generated information system that can, among other things, map response zones in order to ensure that the closest and most accessible units respond first followed by the next available units (2nd alarm, 3rd alarm, etc.). Other benefits of the GIS include: indicating the type and locations of hydrants closest to fire incidents, hydrants out-of-service in the vicinity of fire incidents, street closures and best route for response, information specific to buildings involved in the incident (wet vs. dry standpipe, location of hand lines, access codes .) etc. The system can even plot toxic plumes in HazMat incidents!
Each speaker also emphasized how the GIS has been useful in the political arena. This has been accomplished by using the system to show to public officials why certain stations targeted for closure should remain open. It has even been used to justify the need to open new stations, push for funding for more apparatus (both medical and fire) and to show the need for increased personnel.
Anyone interested in further information on this topic can contact Director Jonathan Moore, IAFF Department of Fire & EMS Operations/GIS at 1750 New York Ave., NW, Washington DC 20006.
II. Programs Ready to Use: NFPAs Risk Watch & NHTSAs Buckle Up America
For more information visit: www.nhtsa.dot.gov or www.riskwatch.org
III. HCFA: Revised Rules and Regulations / Alternative Funding Resources
The second part of this workshop was a very important discussion on how to obtain grants and alternative funding for Fire Departments and EMS Services. The lecture was presented by FEMA representative and USFA member William Troup. Given the current budget crisis in San Francisco and the SFFD, this seems like a logical alternative for supplemental funding. I urge anyone with experience in grant writing to notify our administration and/or Union to tap these resources.
For more information on grants available and help on how to obtain them, go to www.hcfa.gov.
IV. EMS System Performance Measures and NFPA 1710
A. System Performance Measures:
The indicators include: call processing time, turnout time (the time from dispatch to load into apparatus), defibrillation time to first shock, employee turnover, patient outcome, protocol compliance, deployment of mobile resources, staffing, employee illness and injury, and more. In total, there will be 15 performance indicators. Initially, the more than 250 departments that are participating will answer questionnaires relating to these indicators. Later, a smaller sample of fire departments will be chosen to participate in a more in-depth field study. The IAFF intends to start implementation on July 1, 2001. I am not aware of whether or not SFFD will be participating in this study.
B. NFPA 1710
The standard specifies as follows:
V. Cross-Trained/Dual-Role: Fire Suppression or EMS?
Their problems started with a Chief who wanted to privatize EMS, thereby losing any possible revenue that EMS generated. Together, the 2 unions fought not only to save EMS but to include the paramedics in the fire & police pension which they were successful in attaining. They also fought for procedural guarantees which protect their members from accusations of misconduct. To further show their commitment to EMS, the department began an internal firefighter/paramedic apprentice program with the intention to cross-train ALL members of their department.
Not long after overcoming their first EMS roadblock, the department was faced with a brand new mayor who threatened cutbacks and closures. First, the mayor refused to negotiate for parity & promotions. Then he revealed his intention to close 7 fire companies and disband 2 Battalion Chiefs in order to give the police a 33% raise and add additional EMS units to the street (without hiring more medics to staff the units).
At this point the Unions took to the streets to defend and justify the need to keep these units open. After a long crusade involving reaching out to the public, soliciting the help of the media, and launching a full counter-attack on the mayor, the only agreement the mayor would succumb to was allowing the fire department to choose which units were to close down.
Further noteworthy information about Baltimore Maryland fire department include:
I guess we could learn from this department and their struggles. If we dont get on board and set our own criteria for EMS we could very easily face a future administrator or political figure that is not so fire-friendly that will set it for us.
VI. Medical Priority Dispatch: Call Dispatch Innovations
Another thing that is accomplished by this dispatching method is that calls are stacked meaning that if they are non-emergent, they are put on hold until all pending ALS calls are handled. In some jurisdictions suppression units respond to low-priority calls and if transport is necessary, a private ambulance is called for transport. Further, frequent callers of 911 are tracked and provided with social service to offer alternatives, i.e.: elder care, rape crisis, etc..
Mr. Kinch did say that the extent of alternatives implemented will depend on each individual department, but this system seemed like a step in the right direction. We all are aware that working at dispatch is difficult. The calls most often come from people who are hysterical and distraught, or the caller has little information to give. So unless we return to the days where paramedics triage calls, then at least this system might offer some improvement, even if only slightly. I guess well have to wait and see!
So that was the conference. Overall the theme of the conference seemed to be about staying on top of the trends toward EMS within the Fire Service while maintaining the exemplary skills of fire suppression. And as for you Brother Vannucchi .Ill catch you at the next conference!