Response Time...Reasoning

I'm sure by now most of you have read the accounts of the latest changes that relate to New York City firefighters and how they should respond to calls. Yeah, some eyebrow-raising stuff that really can effect us all either directly or indirectly.


How hard is it to figure out the difference? I mean, it's no secret that I am not what one would call an EMS person, although I think our fire-medics at my department (LSFD) are amongst the best I have ever seen. They clearly save lives and provide a level of care that most communities only dream of. But they understand when to go a little quicker and when to go a little slower. Is our chief concerned about response times? Absolutely. But he is more concerned about our members arriving safely. It's pretty simple since his philosophy is if we get there, we can do what the folks called us to do from the start. If we don't get there, everyone loses.

Not real tough to understand.

So now, we read in New York City that those in charge are instructing members to not stop at red lights and the unions are telling members to stop at red lights and stop signs, make sure it is safe, and then proceed through carefully. Why wouldn't you stop? It's real clear that your department, and you, the driver, can personally be held responsible and liable when there is a crash.

Let's look at a few other factors in response times. Factors such as:

  • 9-1-1 call taking time. Ya wanna get worked up over response times? Take a look at call taking time...that's from the time the phone call is answered to the time the call taker hangs up.
  • Call processing time. How long does it take your dispatch center to process the call and get the tones out once the call taker hangs up? In some places it happens simultaneously. In others, there are some serious delays for whatever reason. But that is part of response times.
  • Tone out time? In some places-it takes minutes to get all the tones out. Some places have a tone for the pagers, a tone for the lights, a tone for the garage doors, a tone for the fire whistle and a tone for the tones. Intelligent.

And here is one of my favorites.

Firefighter turn-out time, again, all part of response times. Turn out time is from the time the tones go off at the firehouse and the time it takes the members to get on the apparatus and leave for the call. In some towns it takes several minutes because the members are coming from home or work. In some towns the members are in the apparatus and on the road in seconds, safely but quickly. They remember what they are there for.

But in some towns it also takes minutes because the on-duty in-station firefighters forgot what they are there for. I once stood in front of a firehouse where an engine company was dispatched for an EMS assist, a chest pains call. Chest pains generally suck and someone was having them and wanted the fire department to make the chest pains go away. A reasonable request. And so the apparatus driver came out, started his engine, got out of it, lit a cigarette as he waited for the rest of the crew.

He was another M.I.U. (Moron in Uniform).

It's 2005 and if you hate going to EMS calls and that's part of your job at the fire department, career or volunteer, it's time for a career change. Go hang out somewhere else. Kind of like a baker that hates the smell of flour or the shoe salesman that hates the smell of feet. Wrong business pal.

Yeah, I know, the EMS call abuse, people waiting four hours to call, drunken clowns puking and all that other stuff. Deal with it because for every abuse call there is someone who really needs you with your EMS skills, your comforting skills, your de-fib, your trauma gear and your crappy attitude and all.

And one of the most important factors in response times; the location of the firehouse. Location, location, location. And of course that has to do with planning to put the firehouses in the best spots and to factor in all the ISO stuff. Folks who live in rural areas get longer response times. That's a part of the no-hydrants, lots of cows and just a little noise and traffic package that those folks get when they live out there. Long response times are expected.

But now back to New York City. The cops run the 9-1-1 system so the call handling time is not in the fire department