Everett Examining “Risk Tolerance” For Fire Department

19th Fire 1, risk tolerance

A house fire in southwest Everett from May 30th of this year.

At its meeting this Wednesday the Everett City Council Public Safety Committee is scheduled to take a look at some items from the study by Fitch and associates of the Everett Fire Department. Fitch advised the city that they really can’t make any long-term recommendations until the city leaders determine their risk tolerance level. The committee is set to hear from the Everett Fire Department administration as well as the Everett Firefighter’s Union regarding their take on risk tolerance. The meeting is set for 5:00 PM at the Everett City Council chambers. The public may come watch the meeting but is not allowed to comment. Comments can be made during the full city council meeting set to start at 6:30 PM. You can also see both meetings on the city’s website or cable access channels.

Editor’s Note: Below is a recap of the last public safety meeting minutes. It will give you a basic understanding of the issues being discussed but is just the surface. Both the Mayor and the Everett City Council have stated this will be a long complex process. It is however the future of the Everett Fire Department that is being discussed…

Policy level would have to look at the risk tolerance level. What can we afford to deliver? What is safe to deliver that gives us a comfort zone in our community. Those are set from a policy level because those will then drive the cost of your service. – While you may be able to quantify short term savings implication of who does Basic Life Support or how to do it, this is very complicated complex issue that has labor ramifications. Fitch provided to the full Council different models to look at for the purposes of evaluation, looking at the labor piece, the cost savings to allow communication with those who provide the service and then at some point in the future to make a recommendation moving forward. The city both Administration and the policy makers will have to dive deep on this issue to really understand the ramifications of this of how we deliver service.

One thing all agree on and hear from our citizens is having multiple vehicles arrive on a call does not look very efficient to them and does not look very efficient to us. We know there are opportunities to be more efficient question would be how? What the policy decision needs is for everybody to be involved. All the stakeholders because at the end of day needs to be defensible. Inherent in that process is the community establishing their expectations and getting that feedback.

The community has to establish a willingness to assume risk and a balance for their ability and willingness to fund the services. Somewhere is the right service for your community. Match the ability to fund services and the community expectation for those services. From a policy level here are the questions you as a Council need to address:
1. What would you expect for turnout time?
2. How do you plan to address these issues?

Key questions identified by the Fitch Consultants are:
 What do you want to do as a fire service?
 What performance do you want to supply?
 What areas do you want to service?
 Are we doing BLS or is someone else doing it and what is the response time are the more important questions. Those will drive what service you are in which is one of the primary issues it to look at a better way to respond to the growing call demand for low acuity patients.

Fitch recommendation regarding the BLS issue.

The city takes ownership of that service as they are currently doing today and manage it through a contractual relationship still accountable to the community. Continue to manage those calls through a contract of ambulance services be held accountable to the fire department and the city.

By doing this you establish a level of service and the performance to get there. You still are in full control of the service delivered to your constituents. The core function of the fire is to respond to emergencies less to low acuity calls. Call volume will continue to grow and the question is how you want to reinvest in the fire dept. Through attrition and by the reduction of calls, growth area you start to normalize your budget and then you start prioritizing where you put your investment. That provides a more cost effective manner than making a fire handle an EMS problem. It is a responsible way to address the issue.

Remember letting others do this would be cheaper but it is a negotiated piece. This model is fairly common. One half of the country uses this model including California. The city of Clovis, CA is one for example. The City of Vancouver just took theirs out to a non subsidy bid. However we never recommend doing any drastic moves. This would be part of a package.

Another idea if the policy decision would be staying the in the BLS system. Could possible include the potential for a new job description which could be negotiated that specifically deals with this training level and qualifications to do BLS.

Maintain the BLS services but instead of asking the fire department to handle that load you would put in 3 peak load units to work peak level each day. Would reduce the call volume normalize that experience and still realize the cost savings. Much more effective and efficient in how you handle those BLS calls. The other part would be to test that experience you have carved off the types of calls you could take to market, you could test in house if you decide at a policy later, still not where you want to be you could have a couple of options at that. More of a stair step than a onetime decision. One of the benefits would be that you would have 34 firefighters and EMTs on duty during the busiest part of the day. More cost effective. Depend on the design difference in savings broke down. If you compress the internal time, express the external time.

Finally what level of response time is acceptable for all of us elected to say were protecting our citizen’s safety and health? This is what is acceptable now what kind of system and objectives do we put in place to ensure that response.

A topic for future discussion: possibly by teleconference or webinar. Look at Fire response times. This number is the most misunderstood and merits a whole hour of discussion. How does that time affect you? How does it change the outcomes? This is a big decision and you need to understand past 100 years turnout time was the only measure. You also need to deal with public perception. You need to hear from the Chief what is his position on all of these issues and the union leadership on how it is working in the trenches.

Again the public safety committee meeting is set for 5:00 PM this Wednesday December 16th inside the Everett City Council chambers at 3002 Wetmore. The normal Everett City Council meeting is set to follow at 6:30 PM.

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