New System Delays OKC Fire Department's Emergency Response

Tuesday, September 25th 2012, 9:55 pm
By: News 9

Some people in Oklahoma City will be waiting longer for certain emergency response vehicles after calling 911.

The longer waits are because of changes at the city's dispatch center, and that has the Oklahoma City Fire Department looking at ways to keep service running fast while staying resourceful. Currently, the delay in getting fire trucks on the scene could be as long as one minute or even two minutes.

"We were over-responding, but we were doing it for the sake of response times," Chief Keith Bryant of Oklahoma City Fire Department said.

That is not the case anymore. The department is now becoming more selective on the calls it responds to, which is creating the delay. It takes extra time to determine what calls take priority.

"A lot of times, without any more information than [what] we had to go on, we were showing up on really lower priority, non-emergency-type calls," Bryant said.

The department says it's important to save its resources, time and energy on things like heart attacks, strokes or major trauma. The type of calls that may experience delays are medical calls. Fire response time should stay the same. For the past two months, a new system has been in place allowing EMSA to request fire after vetting calls. Prior to that, the fire department would respond to each and every call requiring EMSA immediately.

"[The fire department] will run when it's necessary for [it] to run, and I believe … that's of a benefit to not only our fire fighters but also to our citizens," M.T. Berry, Oklahoma City assistant city manager said.

The city says the amount of fire department calls has dropped 30 percent since becoming more selective. Fire officials say the transition has also factored into the delays, but they say they're getting better.

"We've gotten it down to even shorter now, and we'll continue to work through that," Bryant said.

Bryant says any increase in response time is a concern but insists the current wait time is not a significant increase.

The issue was brought up at the Oklahoma City Council meeting Tuesday, where leaders were being urged to continue finding ways shorten response time.

Read City Manager James Couch's report on the new system.