Local News

Stop Sending Fire Trucks on Medical Calls, OC Grand Jury Report concludes

A recently released Orange County Grand Jury report entitled “Where’s the Fire? Stop Sending Fire Trucks to Medical Calls” questions this widespread practice.

In Orange County, nearly 80% of all 911 calls to fire departments are for medical services. The report highlights potential problems with the deployment model of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), which Fullerton is considering joining, as well as other city fire departments.

“Sending a 36,000 to 60,000-pound fire engine or aerial ladder truck down residential streets for strictly medical calls is not only dangerous and costly, but it also results in unnecessary wear and tear on our streets,” the report said.

The Grand Jury’s findings include:

  • Despite use of a tiered dispatch system, Orange County Fire Authority deployment of resources for medical responses are the same for nearly all calls, resulting in unnecessary wear and tear on expensive fire-fighting equipment and public infrastructure.
  • Ambulances or smaller squad vehicles are often the most appropriate response to medical calls and do not compromise the quality of medical care
  • Over-deployment of firefighters for medical calls contributes to the current climate of firefighter fatigue.
  • Code 3 response (lights and sirens) is over utilized by OCFA, unnecessarily putting the responders and public at risk.

The Grand Jury’s recommendations Include:

  • All Orange County fire agencies utilize criteria-based dispatch protocols and send a single unit response to those incidents triaged as non-life threatening.
  • OCFA should station a paramedic squad vehicle, which is more nimble and less costly to operate, in place of a second engine in stations with high volumes of medical calls.

The Grand Jury’s investigation “also revealed a breakdown in communication and trust between Orange County Emergency Medical Service (OCEMS) and Orange County Fire Chiefs, which includes Fire Chiefs of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) and various city fire departments.”

The report commended the city of Placentia’s recent changes to their emergency medical response protocols after leaving OCFA, which have resulted in improved medical call response times.

To read the full report visit http://www.ocgrandjury.org.

Chart included in the OC Grand Jury Report.

7 replies »

  1. when i was a kid back in the fifty they always called a ambulance for medical help and car crashes,down here in south county they take the fire truck to coffee shops and grocery shopping instead of being at the fire station

  2. 80% of all calls are EMS….and 90% of those are not an emergency nor do they need an ambulance.

  3. About time. One of the stupidest piece of “Protocol” this side of Jupiter !

  4. But then what would all those overpaid/overpensioned “firefighters” do?

  5. Excellent and a must read for all Fullertonians. It is a massive resource overuse and waste. The city needs to save tens of millions of dollars for budget purposes and fire (as well as police) have continuously increased their percentage of the Fullerton city budget for decades. It is unsustainable.