All types of emergencies constitute “workload”

All types of emergencies constitute “workload”

William F. Crapo

Captain (Retired)

Washington (DC) Fire Department

I would like to thank Nicholas V. Cagliuso, B.S., EMT-D (Letters to the Editor, December 1997) for caring enough to respond to my article, “The Treadmill,” which appeared in the August 1997 issue.

There are a couple of points I wish to make relative to his comments. First, he says, “He admits that many departments have taken over EMS systems simply to justify their overinflated budgets U.” I never made that statement. Those are his words. And I suspect there isn`t a single firefighter in this country who honestly feels he has it so good that he could say his department`s budget is overinflated. As an example, I know of one department that runs a single-firefighter engine company. Then, if one of the medics takes the day off, the medic unit also runs single-firefighter. One of the single-firefighter engine companies then meets the medic unit on the scene of an EMS run, and they leave the fire engine in the street while the driver goes to the hospital with the medic. After the run, they go back and pick up the engine, then they go back to their respective stations to wait for the next call (honestly, you can`t make up stuff like this). It`s not much of a stretch to believe these guys don`t think their department has an overinflated budget.

Second, the fact that an agency is doing nearly 40 percent fewer fire runs than it did 20 years ago does not equate with an equal reduction in the average “work” load. Let me explain. In 1980, the fire service in the United States responded to 5,774,000 runs, not including medical responses. In 1995, we responded to a total of 7,010,500 runs, excluding medical responses. This is a 21.4 percent increase in “work,” not a 20 percent decrease, and that`s only over 16 years–from 1980 to 1995 (my data include only the breakdown from 1980 to 1995). And, it doesn`t even take into account the medical responses over the same period. They increased from 5,045,000 in 1980 to 9,381,000 in 1995. That is an 85.9 percent increase in that one category alone.

My point is that the current breed of well-intentioned, but misguided, reformers has completely disregarded the other types of emergencies to which the fire service always has responded and always will have to respond. (A good many fire chiefs have made the same error.) Medical responses are just the fire service`s “politically correct” response category. And, on top of this, we have less staffing and fewer companies than we did 20 years ago.

Again, I thank Cagliuso for his letter. It is only through sharing differing opinions that we will eventually find the right formula that will truly make a positive difference.

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