City to pilot innovative fire service approach

Solution increases reliability through greater flexibility

Brian Coddington, Communications Director, 509.625.6740; Don Waller, Local 29 President, 509.991.6959

Monday, August 5, 2013 at 2:38 p.m.

Spokane Mayor David Condon and Spokane Fire Fighters Local 29 today announced an innovative pilot program to bring greater flexibility and reliability to the City's fire service system using the deployment of smaller incident response units. The Spokane Fire Department will begin dispatching sport utility type vehicles, known as Alternative Response Units (ARUs), staffed by a single firefighter, to less severe incidents.

This trial period is designed to gather data about response times, service delivery and operational costs of ARU's in comparison to the traditional deployment system, as well as enhance the availability of larger apparatus and crews for more critical incidents.

“We are evolving our model to meet the changing needs of our citizens, which increasingly include emergency medical services,” Condon said. “This creative solution introduces flexibility that we expect will increase public safety.”

Last year, 25,215 of the 32,521 requests for Fire Department services were dispatched as emergency medical incidents. Upon arrival, 19,744 were determined to be actual emergency medical calls, creating a need to identify alternative response capabilities. Data collected during the pilot program will be used to determine what percentage of those calls can be serviced by an ARU.

During the pilot program, ARUs will be staffed Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to coincide with peak incident volumes. The pilot will cost up to $225,000 and be funded through existing resources.

The pilot is scheduled to begin in September and run approximately three to six months. The City and Local 29, the firefighter's union, signed a memorandum of understanding this week outlining the parameters of the pilot.

“We feel this deployment configuration improves safety to the citizens of our city while allowing us to gather solid data,” said Don Waller, President of Local 29. “Our priority is to ultimately configure the best service model to improve safety for our citizens and our members.”

ARUs will be placed in three areas of the City as a supplement to the smaller medical response vehicles and traditional engine and ladder companies that are currently in place. ARUs will operate out of stations 1 (Riverside & Browne), 11 (32nd & Perry) and 13 (Wellesley & Jefferson).

“We've listened to citizens who have told us they want us to use something other than larger apparatus to respond to medical calls,” Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams said. “We believe ARUs can give us greater flexibility toward sending the right unit to meet the specific call for service and this program will allow us to evaluate their effectiveness.”