1. #1
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    Default Volusia County Fla--Fire Chief's Do Battle over "Boundaries"

    DAYTONA BEACH NEWS JOURNAL

    'Closest unit' response steams fire chiefs
    Volusia County plan forces cities to participate

    By LYDA LONGA
    STAFF WRITER

    Last update: 21 April 2003


    DELAND -- City limit signs shouldn't stop a paramedic or firefighter from saving a life. But a proposed county ordinance ordering lifesaving workers to ignore those boundaries is running into roadblocks from area fire chiefs and city officials.

    The ordinance, which could be presented to the Volusia County Council as early as May, says a city could lose its permit to provide emergency medical services to its own residents if it does not participate in a "closest-unit response" program with its neighbors.

    That perceived threat has some fire chiefs steaming.

    "This needs to be an issue of cooperation, not coercion," said Chris Phelps, fire chief for Ponce Inlet. "We've had quite a bit of discussion regarding this topic over the years. If this ordinance goes through, we'll be under obligation to be the automatic first respondents to the cities or unincorporated county areas closest to us."






    County emergency medical services officials say that the "closest unit response" plan is designed to improve emergency service to all residents.

    A study commissioned last year by the Volusia Council of Governments concluded that residents would be best served when the closest unit -- regardless of city or county boundaries -- responds to an emergency call.

    Critics, however, question how the program will work if departments around the county have different equipment and staffing levels.

    Matt Zavadsky, emergency medical services manager for the county, says the cities of Holly Hill, Port Orange, New Smyrna Beach and Ponce Inlet have expressed concerns about the proposed ordinance.

    Zavadsky says fire chiefs and city managers are worried about leaving their cities vulnerable to an emergency when they cross their borders to aid a neighbor.

    Most cities now have between three and four firefighters staffing their emergency units, while the county often has between one and three firefighters, depending on the area, Zavadsky said. Because of that, officials are worried their residents won't get the same level of service from the county. City officials also are worried they'll be called on to respond more often than the county will.


    "We need to have equity of service and equity of call volumes," said Port Orange City Manager Ken Parker. "That means if a city responds to an emergency more often than the county does, there needs to be some compensation for manpower and equipment. That would not happen under the ordinance."



    The county says it already provides closest unit response to cities automatically. County officials are also in the process of cementing a closest unit response pact with DeLand, so the city will respond to emergencies in unincorporated pockets such as Spring Hill, where two teens died in a January fire at a church that resulted when their pickup crashed into the building and exploded.

    DeLand City Manager Mike Abels said there will be no compensation from the county for the closest unit response service for a year. After that, the two governmental entities will review how the plan has worked for them. Aside from the costs and staffing concerns, city officials said they resent being told what to do by the county and believe closest unit response agreements work best when they are voluntary.

    Phelps and Parker both said Volusia officials should have consulted the cities while preparing the ordinance.

    Despite the naysayers, County Council Chairman Frank Bruno and Zavadsky believe the cities will come around as the proposed law goes through a review process where it is discussed with various community boards and organizations such as the council of governments.

    But most city officials say some of the provisions in the law are harsh -- such as one that calls for revoking the permit that gives cities the right to provide emergency medical services to residents.

    At least one city manager said he thinks the county is bluffing.

    "That's not a realistic threat," Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte said. "No city will stand for that."

    lyda.longa@news-jrnl.com
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  2. #2
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    CALFFBOU's Avatar
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    Default Finally...

    All I can say is its about time. The "closest unit
    regardless of boundry" is not a new concept. Progressive
    Southern California departments started doing this back
    in the 70s.

    Regardless of where and when, its good to see progress
    move forward to save lives. Thats why we are here...
    Last edited by CALFFBOU; 04-26-2003 at 01:54 PM.

  3. #3
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    Talking Port Orange Responds (No Pun Intended)

    Daytona Beach News Journal

    Port Orange responds to county on emergency handling

    By JOHN WISNIEWSKI
    Staff Writer

    Last update: 25 April 2003


    PORT ORANGE -- Three issues need resolving before the city considers nearest-station response for emergency medical services regardless of jurisdiction, the City Council decided near midnight Tuesday.

    All three issues involve equity -- in staffing, service level and call volume -- the council agreed in adopting a formal stance on the matter as requested by the Volusia Council of Governments.

    The VCOG request stemmed from a Volusia County proposal that its municipalities agree to a nearest-station response system or have their county permits to provide emergency medical services terminated.

    "Those issues are very important ones and not only because they make sense," Vice Mayor Mary Martin said in addressing staffing in particular.

    Port Orange, Fire Chief Mike Ertz had noted in outlining the issues for the council, maintains a per-emergency-vehicle staffing minimum of three persons, including at least one paramedic.

    In contrast, Ertz told the council, Volusia County's per-emergency vehicle staffing varies from one to three.

    Thus, in Martin's view, "if we (the city) accept first (nearest-station) response with less (staffing) than we have, that bothers me."

    In terms of service level, the council agreed that under the proposed system ALS, or Advanced Life Support service, should be required at all times, regardless of the responder.

    And, in terms of call volume, it was agreed there needs to be a guaranteed reimbursement formula when an imbalance occurs in the number of responses between adjoining jurisdictions.

    Councilman John Jackson was the only other council member to comment during the brief, late-hour council discussion of the matter.

    "These three issues," Jackson said, "are the very same ones we were concerned about three years ago with South Daytona" on a nearest-station response effort that never came to fruition.

    Ertz, meanwhile, said an effort to establish an East Volusia First Response Cooperative has been in the works for nearly a year, initiated by the fire chiefs in eight cities.

    The city managers of the eight cities -- Daytona Beach, Port Orange, Ormond Beach, South Daytona, Holly Hill, Ponce Inlet, New Smyrna Beach and Edgewater -- have supported the effort, Ertz said.

    "It's something you're not seeing in the newspaper, but we believe it's a system that will work," Ertz said, adding the effort also has some support from affected labor union bargaining units.

    john.wisniewski@news-jrnl.com
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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