Fire Authority Receives the Consultant’s Report

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By Sue Moore

“We learned some interesting things from the consultant’s study of the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority (SKCFA),” said Randy Smith, chair of the governing body. “There are 49 recommendations. Some have already been done and some are currently in the process of being implemented.”

Smith, who is Brady Township supervisor, said the most important thing the consultant (CPSM) cited, was that SKCFA was running on too many EMS calls. This caught the Board by surprise. There were 900 Emergency Medical Service calls from September 1, 2014 to August 31, 2015. CPSM posited that 800 of them would not have required a fire run. “That was shocking,” Smith said. “Of course the audit they did was after the fact. When your own mother is gasping for breath or unconscious on the kitchen floor and you call 911, County Dispatch sends us out. If it turns out that her blood sugar was down and all she needed was a glass of orange juice, you really didn’t need five first responders on scene. The problem is that Dispatch doesn’t really know that when the call comes in.” “Our challenge is to work with Medical Control and 911 Dispatch to see if we can identify some of those 800 ‘unnecessary’ runs prior to be toned out. We will be talking to Dr. Failes who is in charge of Medical Control for Kalamazoo County to assist us in this effort. He is the final authority for all things related to medical first responders in this county. The most important thing is that we respond to every single call that we need to. We cannot put our residents at risk, in any way, for the sake of budget concerns.”

Brady, Wakeshma, and Prairie Ronde townships banded together to institute an assessment to cover the cost of operating the fire authority for their townships in 2015. This was based upon 20-year projections for equipment, training, and staffing of the authority. Smith said that there is no reason to believe the basic assumptions are wrong in the projections. “We will figure out which things make sense in the consultant’s report and how they fit into the budget.”

“There are a lot of moving parts to emergency services in South County. The consultant was tasked to review the Fire Authority’s operation, not South County EMS and not either of the two village’s police departments. We need to look at these recommendations and see how they fit into the bigger ‘emergency services’ picture. The board’s next move will be to put the selection of a fire chief in the hands of the human resources committee and see where it goes from there,” Smith said.

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