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EMS director pleads for policy change

Staff writer

Marion County ambulance director Steve Smith pleaded with the Marion County Fire Chiefs Assembly Friday to change the policy for Emergency Medical Services calls.

Currently, dispatchers are instructed to call ambulances for any structure fire, Chief Mike Regnier said.

Also, in cases of extreme heat — a qualifier left to the discretion of Marion County dispatchers — ambulances are called for the health of firefighters wearing heavy equipment.

“It could be 90 degrees with 100 percent humidity,” Smith said.

Smith said dispatchers call ambulances to every fire in Hillsboro.

Even with temperatures slated to be over 95 degrees for most of August, Smith asked firefighters to assess fires before calling for ambulances to the scene. Smith said Emergency Medical Technicians had complained that they had been called to grass fires where they had done nothing.

Smith also said ambulances had been called for gas spills at Ampride in Marion and Hillsboro and false alarms at schools and hospitals.

“A lot of time Lincolnville fire is called out, and the ambulance is first,” Smith said. “We don’t want to be first on the scene. We might park a vehicle where they need a truck.”

He said if firefighters will be extinguishing a fire for multiple hours in the heat or the situation is dangerous ambulances will provide assistance.

Smith’s request comes after a record-setting month of hot, dry conditions in which ambulances responded to 128 calls — a 70 percent increase compared with the same period from 2010. There is also an EMT shortage in the county. He wants the EMTs to be used more efficiently.

Fire Chief Assembly head Regnier said he supported the policy changes Friday.

“We want to help them out,” Regnier said.

However, the assembly did not make a decision to change policy Friday, tabling a decision until the Communications Advisory Board Meeting 7 p.m. Aug. 25.

Emergency Management Director Dan D’Albini said the fire policy for dispatchers can be modified at the meeting using the specific requirements of fire and EMS services.

Last modified Aug. 11, 2011

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