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Audit Finds Cheaper Way To Lower Fire Response Times

Aired 3/5/12 on KPBS News.

San Diego’s fire department is always looking for ways to lower response times. Now the department may have found one that doesn’t cost a lot of money.

— It’s commonly known the City of San Diego doesn’t have enough fire stations. While building new stations would bring emergency response times down, it would also cost millions of dollars.

San Diego Fire and Rescue Department Truck 10 sits in a fire station garage.
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Above: San Diego Fire and Rescue Department Truck 10 sits in a fire station garage.


Audit of SDFRD Emergency Medical Dispatch Process

Audit of SDFRD Emergency Medical Dispatch Process

A performance audit of the San Diego Fire and Rescue Department's emergency medical dispatch process.

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A report from the city auditor found that response times can be lowered by up to a minute by simply dispatching an ambulance and a fire truck to a medical emergency at the same time. Right now an ambulance is sent out first and a fire truck is only sent after additional information is gathered. But the auditor’s report shows a fire truck is needed more than 80 percent of the time.

Councilman Kevin Faulconer heads up the audit committee. He said the change makes sense.

“If they’re not needed they can turn back,” he said. “But to be out there earlier, faster, without having to cost taxpayers any additional dollars makes perfect sense. But it makes more sense from a public safety standpoint”

The auditor’s report found there were more than 118,000 emergency medical calls in San Diego to 911 in fiscal year 2011. Of those, about 83,000 required a fire unit as well as an ambulance.

Faulconer said the report sets an example for San Diego.

“This is exactly the type of audit we want to see in all of our different departments,” he said. “And I commend the fire chief for working so closely with our independent city auditor because I think we have a great result that the fire chief believes he will be able to implement within several weeks.”

The auditor’s report found an overall fire department response time of 9 minutes, 27 seconds for 90 percent of San Diego’s 911 calls.

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Avatar for user 'AllenA'

AllenA | March 5, 2012 at 9:41 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Without costing taxpayers any additional dollars? What about fuel, tires and wear & tear on a million dollar piece of equipment?

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | March 6, 2012 at 3:36 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Now if the Fire and Police Dept's can be as diligent in not demanding such lavish pay and retirement benefits from the ever-burdened taxpayers.

A way out of our fiscal abyss is to do away with current hiring practices for police and fire dept's and set them up as enlistments similar to the military, with pay and benefits no different than the military. This will include retirement too. The fact of the matter is that our city is going broke because of these practices that city officials will not change until the walls come crashing down.

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