The Vancouver Fire Department is trying out the use of smaller vehicles on lower-priority medical calls as part of a pilot project, reports The Columbian.
The goal is to cut response time on higher-priority calls. That means keeping engines on standby at the department’s 10 stations while two SUVs roam the department’s 91 square miles. Fuel costs will drop, as it costs $1.34 a mile to drive an SUV compared to $7.47 a mile for an engine, but the project wasn’t just meant as a cost-cutting move. It should get help to more people faster.
Early results are promising, said Vancouver Fire Chief Joe Molina.
The city council has set a goal response time for priority 1 and 2 calls of 7 minutes, 59 seconds or less. Paramedics should meet that goal for these most urgent calls, such as a cardiac arrest, at least 90 percent of the time.
Without the SUVs, crews were hitting that target only 78 percent of the time.
With the SUVs, the success rate has increased to 94 percent.
In an April 25 memo to City Manager Eric Holmes, Molina wrote that it would be “premature to draw any conclusions about response time and patient acuity until we analyze the larger data set from the three-month trial period.”
The target response time for priority 3 and 4 calls was set by the city council at 10 minutes, 59 seconds or less. That goal has been met 79 percent of the time during the pilot project, even though there’s only two SUVs for the fire department’s coverage area, which includes the city and the rural area within Fire District 5.
Molina said there’s room for improvement with coordinating with AMR, whose crews have their own dispatchers separate from Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency.
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