First Response Agreement Between Fire Departments And EMS To Be Amended

Changes are on the way for the Essex-Windsor EMS and Fire Services Medical Tiered Response Agreement.

The agreement between firefighters and EMS has been in place for more than 24-years, most recently amended in 2015 — when an ambulance is too far away or unavailable, the closest fire department would spring into action.

According to a report brought before Essex County Council Wednesday the wording of the agreement has caused confusion and would have fire departments attending scenes that were non-life-threatening. 

Essex-Windsor EMS Chief Bruce Krauter tells AM800 News with an increase in call volumes, the new wording will make sure fire departments are only called for life or death situations.

"An ambulance was coming from a distance and our dispatch centre would automatically tier fire to a call that may have been waiting for an extended period of time," he says. "We found a lot of those calls were not emergency life of limb."

The city of Windsor has a full-time fire department, so firefighters are already on shift, but Krauter says a call for a broken arm could cost towns much more.

"They're volunteers; every time they get called out they would have to leave their full-time jobs if it was during the daytime. The volume was just getting unmanageable for them. Their full-time employers were actually saying they'd have to choose," says Krauter. "The other piece is it's a big financial burden to the lower tier municipalities."

Krauter says where firefighters are deployed will also be changing — previously the location of the call didn't matter.

"Fire departments were showing up at a doctor's office, they were showing up at hospitals, nurse practitioner clinics, those types of areas," he says. "They have a higher medical authority and they're [firefighters] not going to provide any more care than what can be provided at those centres."

Krauter says amendments will have to be approved at the municipal level, so it will still be a little longer before the changes come into play throughout the region.