Fire Service-Based EMS: Some Important Help

In my September 2010 column, "Collective Influence and Positive Relationships," I wrote about an issue that had emerged regarding fire service-based EMS systems. In that column, I mentioned that the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association (Metro Chiefs) had alerted fire departments and local unions that a very large private ambulance service provider had made proposals to elected officials in several cities in an effort to replace local fire departments (in part or in full) as the providers of ambulance service.

I quoted these three fire service organizations as saying "…management and labor must be able to work together to protect their local fire department-based EMS system." They went on to say "…the importance of communications and positive relationships with appointed and elected public officials cannot be overstated. This should be an ongoing effort of both labor and management and can be critical to preventing a (private provider) proposal from being solicited or gaining any momentum."

The IAFC, IAFF and Metro Chiefs not only developed and distributed that initial alert, but they also indicated they would be providing additional support and resources to local fire chiefs and union officials regarding this issue, and they have now done just that. The three organizations recently completed a Fire Service-Based EMS Electronic Tool Kit.

The Tool Kit is intended to provide the fire service with some of the latest information on fire service-based emergency medical services. It includes various electronic links to documents, as well as links to other resources such as websites and videos. The information and accompanying resources can be essential in representing the value and effectiveness of fire service-based EMS systems when communicating with elected officials and other decision-makers at all levels. It is especially geared for use by fire department managers and union officials at the local level of government in cities, counties and fire districts. Following is the link to the Tool Kit, but it can also be accessed directly through the IAFC, IAFF or Metro Chiefs websites: Several other fire service organizations are also posting the link to the Tool Kit on their websites, so gaining access to it will not be difficult for fire departments.

The Electronic Tool Kit provides several "Talking Points" relating to fire service-based EMS systems that can be very helpful when communicating with elected officials and other decision-makers. These "Talking Points" highlight advantages of fire service-based EMS and dispel many of the myths that are circulated by private ambulance companies in their efforts to take over the transportation component of local emergency medical response systems. Other resources in the Tool Kit include:

  • An article providing information on the true meaning of "Enhanced Revenue" and how it relates to cost and risk shifting.
  • An article that discusses "Pathway Management," including an overview of private ambulance company plans to expand their business under managed care.
  • A white paper titled "Pre-Hospital 911 Emergency Medical Response — The Role of the United States Fire Service in Delivery and Coordination." This document discusses the origins and history of emergency medicine in the U.S. and the evolution of the fire service role in EMS.
  • A document titled Emergency Medical Services: A Guidebook for Fire-Based Systems. This guide provides background on EMS systems; guidance for managers and union officials in analyzing their EMS systems; and direction for system evaluation. It also guides fire department leaders confronted with competitive procurement, including information on developing and responding to requests for proposals (RFPs).
  • A brief summary of the benefits of multi-role firefighters in fire department service delivery and deployment models.
  • A link to the Fire Service-Based EMS Advocates website that contains information on the role and importance of fire service-based EMS. It also provides access to a video titled "Fire Service-Based EMS…The Right Response." The website,, contains a direct link to the Electronic Tool Kit.

The decision concerning who will provide EMS services in a community is not only one of public safety and cost; it can also have significant political overtones. It is very important that fire chiefs and union officials are well informed and prepared when communicating with elected officials and other key decision-makers about the critical role fire service-based EMS plays in the all-hazards deployment model used by most of our nation's fire departments. The Fire Service-Based EMS Electronic Tool Kit will help inform leaders and assist them in dealing with a variety of issues relating to fire service-based EMS.

We should all thank the IAFC, IAFF and Metro Chiefs for their leadership in creating the Tool Kit. Now it's up to you to visit it online and use it in a way that best suits your specific situation, politically and/or operationally.

Learn more about this column in this month's Firehouse Insider Podcast on

DENNIS COMPTON, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a well-known speaker and the author of several books, including his newest offering titled Progressive Leadership Principles, Concepts and Tools. He has also authored the three-part series of books titled When in Doubt, Lead, the book Mental Aspects of Performance for Firefighters and Fire Officers, as well as many articles, chapters and other publications. Compton was the fire chief in Mesa, AZ, for five years and as assistant fire chief in Phoenix, AZ, where he served for 27 years. Compton is the past chair of the Executive Board of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) and past chair of the Congressional Fire Services Institute's National Advisory