Ariz. Chief Examines Changes in Fire-Based EMS

Mesa Chief Harry Beck said the department changed its name to include the EMS role.


There is always a risk when dealing with medical calls, but the risk of not transporting a person who might need it, is just not worth it Smith said. Nevertheless, he acknowledges there is some risk to the Mesa model, but he believes the net result and the overall improvement is worth it.

“Sometimes you have to be willing to take a risk for the betterment of the system,” Smith said.

Beck said that like firefighting, sometimes things just need to be done.

“Go do what firefighters do to solve the problem and ask for forgiveness later,” said Beck who comes from a 100-year line of firefighters.

Beck said the way to make this model work is to collect lots and lots of data to show the savings and to prove better outcomes for the patients. Hospital will help underwrite and pay for the services provided by the fire department under this model because they see the huge savings.

Smith said hospitals will reimburse costs for follow up care in the home because it helps keep people out of the hospital because they’re not taking their medication, or not following orders.

Beck added that the service fire departments provide can also help prevent injury and illness. Firefighters for years have been in the prevention business and it just makes sense to expand that service into helping prevent hospitalization and medical emergencies. And, it won’t hurt to tack a smoke detector up at the same time, he said.

“The fire service has to do this,” Beck said. We know what happened those who abandoned it in the past,” Beck said. “This is our future. It is our present.”