First responders turning off lights for non-emergencies

This week, council heard that ambulances are now keeping their sirens and lights off for non-emergency calls.

This week, council heard that ambulances are now keeping their sirens and lights off for non-emergency calls.

The board of BC Emergency Health Services responded to the City of Cranbrook’s past request for more information on local government’s role in first responder services at Monday’s council meeting.

The BCEHS is responsible for governing all emergency medical services in the province, including BC Ambulance service, first responder agencies, BC Patient Transfer Network and Trauma Services BC.

Wynne Powell, board chair of the BCEHS, wrote that the organization undertook the Resource Allocation Plan for ambulances and first responders.

The review resulted in reducing the number of calls requiring lights and siren responses and Advanced Life Support ambulances to attend.

It found that first responders were not required to attend 35 per cent of medical calls that are now notified by BCAS because patients do not require their medical services.

“If you look at the fire department’s fourth quarter report for example, 267 of the 552 responses, which is about 42 per cent, were first responder responses,” Stetski said.

He said the issue has come up before the BC Mayors Caucus.

“The question is looking basically at the responsibility between the ambulance service and first responders from the fire departments around British Columbia.”

The province pays for ambulances around B.C. while municipalities pay for fire departments and first responders.

“Anything the province isn’t funded to do or doesn’t do is picked up by municipalities and first responders,” Stetski said. “The way the BC Mayors Caucus put it was it’s another form of downloading potentially from the province to the municipalities in terms of cost.”

Coun. Angus Davis said that back when he was first in the workforce, communities raised money for their own ambulances.

“All the communities in British Columbia were like that, Cranbrook was no different,” Davis said. “Surprisingly it went very well. You usually had industrial trained attendants and you usually had professionals, because most of the people came from industries within the community.”

He said at some point the regional district took over the operation and a lot of the volunteer aspect went out the door. That was followed by the province taking it over.

“Within the community there is a wealth of talent to respond to these things, and somehow we’ve lost the contact with that in the sense that we look to the senior governments for more and more of the provision of what in many cases we can do extremely well by ourselves,” he said.

The letter also talks about how historically first responders have driven to all medical calls using lights and siren even if the ambulance was responding routine.

Since the allocation plan changes for ambulances were implemented earlier this fall, most fire departments in B.C. decided to match the ambulance services’ response mode and only drive with lights and siren if the patient’s condition warrants an emergency driving response.

The letter notes that the change is a significant improvement in public safety for communities throughout B.C. and an example of the positive benefit of collaboration between the groups involved.

BCEHS is in the process of setting up briefings for municipalities that requested an opportunity to discuss the implementation of the Resource Allocation Plan.

Stetski was happy to hear there was something coming down the pipeline.

Council received the correspondence as information.