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Audit Finds Cheaper Way To Lower Fire Response Times

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.


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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