Oklahoma City fire department’s job cuts could slow response time

If Oklahoma City employee unions don’t accept pay cuts, firefighters will lose jobs this summer, resulting in slower emergency response times. If the unions accept cuts, current fire department service levels will be maintained.

BY JOHN ESTUS Published: May 26, 2010
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uot;I also know there’s always going to be a certain amount of over-response.”

Bryant said he’s talked with officials from the city’s ambulance provider, Emergency Medical Services Authority, about ways to prevent unneeded or duplicated responses to medical calls. Preventing that could prove difficult, Bryant said, because emergency responders typically rely on information collected by dispatchers when deciding how to respond to an incident.

"A lot of times we don’t have the luxury of taking the time to vet that out,” Bryant said. "If we had a way of vetting that out more, that would improve that, but then we’re taking more time to get through that dispatch process.”

Fire department medical engines sometimes respond to medical calls on their own rather than at the request of a dispatcher, a practice that has been scrutinized by city council members in recent years.

"That’s a concern that’s been there forever,” said Ward 1 Councilman Gary Marrs, a former fire chief.

However, not having fire engines as first responders to medical calls could increase the city’s subsidy cost for EMSA because it would result in more ambulances being needed on the streets, Marrs said.

"We try to find that happy medium all the time,” Marrs said.