101 Town Center, P.O. Box 5655, Bella Vista, AR 72714 (479)876-1255

BVFD notifying western Highlands residents of ambulance coverage change


Emblem-copy-1On July 9 of this year, we opened Station 4 near the Highlands Gate. The one ambulance that had been designated to Station 3 near Branchwood was moved to the new station, to provide medical response to a greater coverage area, including the Highlands and some of the central area of the city.

Station 3 is still manned with two EMTs/firefighters and one fire truck.

This does not mean your area does not have emergency medical coverage. The EMTs housed at Station 3 are highly trained and licensed medical personnel who are qualified to work on any ambulance or fire apparatus in our city. The fire truck there is also equipped with not only fire-fighting equipment, but medical equipment including tools to check vital signs, an oxygen supply and a defibrillator.

Station 3 EMTs will remain the first responders for medical and fire calls in the Highlands. They will respond to all calls in the fire truck. This means when you call for medical help, the responders will be the same personnel with the same equipment, just arriving in a different vehicle. The EMTs will still assess the scene and begin patient treatment as they would have, had they arrived in an ambulance. If that patient needs to be transported, the ambulance will arrive from Station 4 only minutes behind the fire truck, because they too will be dispatched to medical calls in the Highlands.

Before this change, if Station 3 medical personnel were on a call, especially one that required ambulance transport which can take up to two hours, the Highlands area was unmanned and unprotected from fire or medical response needs. The medical and fire coverage for the area would then have to come from Station 1 at Town Center, which could take up to 20 minutes.

As an example, our worst case scenario would be a cardiac call, during which the patient goes into cardiac arrest. If a patient goes into cardiac arrest, protocol is that EMTs provide CPR or defibrillate — something they can do with the AED kept on the Station 3 fire truck. This — not ambulance transport — is your life-saving measure, provided within minutes of response.

Additionally, in the event of a structure fire call at the same time, Station 3 personnel can leave the medical scene when the ambulance arrives, to fight the fire.

We are certain this change will ultimately provide you with better medical and fire protection than the Highlands area has ever had before. We are at this time well equipped to provide you the best service possible with two ambulances at Station 1 at Town Center, two at Station 2 on the east side and two at Station 4.

THE NUMBERS

In 2015, Station 3 near Branchwood averaged 33 medical calls per month. That same year, Station 1 at Town Center averaged 166 medical calls per month.

The Station 4 ambulance has responded to 87 medical calls from July 9 to Aug. 29. Only 17 of these calls were to Station 3’s designated response area in the Highlands. This shows the ambulance running out of Station 4 is already nearly 3 times busier than a dedicated ambulance at Station 3.

ISO RATING AND INSURANCE COSTS

The city’s ISO rating is determined by your level of fire protection, and directly affects your home insurance rates. If there is an ambulance kept at Station 3, it is likely to negatively affect your insurance rating in the event of an ISO evaluation. ISO does NOT consider ambulance personnel as fire suppression personnel. Therefore, in their terms, there is no fire protection in that area.

STAFFING FOR EMS AND FIRE DEPOLOYMENT

National standards require basic life support personnel (EMTs) to arrive on a medical scene within 4 minutes. EMTs at Station 3 are able to respond in the fire truck first to medical calls in the western Highlands area, which allows us to meet those standards.

State standards require an advanced life support ambulance to be operated by at least one licensed EMT and one licensed paramedic. Paramedics earn higher salaries, by nature of their abilities. Therefore, an idle ambulance at Station 3 means a valuable paramedic is also at Station 3, working at the station with the least work load and not responding to medical calls on which he or she could be saving lives.

If you have questions about this change, please feel free to call me at 479-855-8248, or email ssims@bellavistaar.gov

Sincerely,

Stephen R. Sims, Fire Chief