■ By Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
The much needed Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) training was approved by the Hemet City Council at its last meeting on April 24.
EMD is the next phase and “single most important step the Hemet Fire Department (HFD) has made,” said Hemet’s Fire Chief Scott Brown. “Other fire departments that have implemented EMD have seen a 25-40 percent reduction in [HFD] call volume.”
The staff report states that the training is being funded through the general fund, but that is not accurate says Brown. Training is being funded by the fines generated by the late ambulance responses. The fines are collected by the city from the county and are specifically tagged for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) only.
The current balance of the account is more than $175,000, according to the staff report. EMD training and software will utilize $82,260 of that balance. This software will have an ongoing annual maintenance cost of $7,200.
EMD is set to be implemented Jan. 1, 2019. It is the most strategic step to address the fire department’s enormous workload. Brown says that the department needs to do a job that is current and valid, and meets industry standards as a professional department.
The city, according to Brown, is in position to go to the next phase of training of its dispatchers.
Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA) has guidelines and has adopted strategies that align with the requirements outlined in its strategic plan. REMSA is the regulatory body for EMS in Riverside County.
Brown stated that the EMD training will be conducted by ProQA, a vendor contractor that trains fire departments in EMS, the protocols for EMD.
“When I first arrived, the department conducted the service delivery options analysis. It was part of the department’s strategic planning. I opted to take an analytical approach to see what was needed to rebuild the department.” said Brown. “The three main priorities were firefighter safety, preparational readiness, and fiscal sustainability.”
All three components were necessary and had to be on the table to rebuild the department. The analysis was initiated in January 2015, and it was presented to council in June of that same year.
The assessment told Brown a lot of what he already knew and identified the significant gaps in funding and how it has impacted the operations of the department.
One of the four main recommendations that emerged from the analysis was that the department needed to come up with alternative strategies to deal with EMS calls. Most fire departments have a 75 percent volume, said Brown. However, HFD’s is higher than most departments due to the city’s demographics. The department needed to look at the process. Currently, when a call is made to dispatch, a full response with a fire engine is sent. This is because the dispatchers do not have training to filter out the response level needed.
To the caller, it may be a full-response emergency, but it actually may not be the response necessary.
The other point Brown made was that up to 30 percent of the calls made are non-emergency calls and impact the workload on a system that is still rebuilding. The analysis identified the need to develop a call-triage system (EMD) and send an alternate response, if needed, but based on a well-defined program
Another effort aimed at cutting down on full-engine responses was the creation of the peak-demand unit that was only able to be implemented as the result of Measure U funding. The department developed the roadmap in 2015 but it lacked the funding.
According to Brown, this is the first time in the history of HFD that the department will contribute to the funding for three positions in dispatch. HFD shares dispatch but has never assisted with its funding until now.