As of July 1, city firefighters will respond to 911 calls for medical assistance only for life-threatening medical conditions, such as cardiac arrest, electrocution, stroke, gunshots and other cases where the life of the patient may depend on a speedy response.
This is a return to the Fire Department’s original response policy for medical calls. It will ensure that city residents get prompt medical help when necessary, while increasing the availability of fire personnel to perform their primary duties of fire-fighting and fire prevention.
County EMS is the primary provider of emergency medical response and responds to all 911 calls for medical assistance. Firefighters, who are trained to provide emergency medical assistance, will respond to life-threatening medical emergencies where a quick response will benefit the victim.
Any citizen with a medical emergency should call 911 and be prepared to state the nature of the emergency and their name, location and telephone number.
The policy was recommended by the Citizens’ Organizational Efficiency Review Committee as well as a consultant who studied Fire Department operations, said Fire Chief Antony Farmer.
“I want to assure our citizens that in any case where a person’s life is in jeopardy and Fire Department personnel can make a difference, we will respond,” Farmer said. “However, we also have an obligation to be good stewards of our resources.”
In addition to freeing fire personnel to perform their primary duties, the policy will reduce maintenance and fuel costs for fire trucks, increase safety by reducing the risk of traffic accidents when firefighters are responding to 911 calls, and increase the time that fire personnel have for such tasks as community education, training and equipment maintenance.
Also taking effect July 1, the Fire Department will stop responding to places where citizens abuse the 911 system by calling for medical help when they are not sick or do not need emergency medical service. The department will not respond to those addresses after three false calls in a 12-month period. The department will resume response after 12 months. There will be exceptions, such as a case where a new tenant moves into a property where the previous resident violated the policy.
For tips on calling 911, visit the Winston-Salem Fire Department website.