EMS, fire service problems lead Ohio county to study possible changes

City administrators in Miami County are concerned about increased staffing and cost issues in EMS and fire operations


Nancy Bowman
Dayton Daily News

TROY, Ohio — City administrators in Miami County say they are concerned about increased staffing and cost issues in emergency medical service and fire operations.

That concern, particularly in EMS, led them to ask the countywide Communications Center board to contract for an independent emergency medical services and fire operational study.

Concerns are being seen in volunteer and volunteer/part-time operations, but the impact also is being felt by full-time departments, said Matthew Simmons, Troy fire chief.

Areas proposed for study include operation interoperability, operating efficiencies, recruitment and retention, and funding opportunities, said Jeff Busch, Communication Center director. The "interoperability" piece is the central communication center's ability to manage the dispatch or movement of all departments across the county at all times.

Busch presented the proposed study on July 28 to the center board, which includes city managers along with fire, EMS and law enforcement representatives.

"We would bring a consulting firm to look at overall layout of the county and the best way to get assistance to the citizens out ... to make sure we get help to citizens in a much more efficient manner," Busch said. The estimated cost was $60,000.

A decision was not made on the request for proposals for the study after board members asked for a proposal review by the county fire chiefs association, which next meets in September.

Busch said the center, which manages calls for service and dispatches for emergency services county-wide, is being impacted by the issues addressed by the managers and administrators.

"The Communication Center is affected because dispatches go unanswered, requiring multiple attempts to get a response due to lack of staffing. Some departments are reluctant to put their station out of service for calls when they do not have staffing," Busch said.

When this occurs, the center dispatcher must put that station out of service in the computer-aided dispatch system and begin the dispatch process again to get a recommendation for mutual aid agencies, he said. Once that is done, there may not be a mutual aid response plan in the system because it was not provided by the department, adding time to get a response out, Busch said.

Simmons said Troy is being strained by increased requests for mutual aid from areas such as Elizabeth Twp. to the east and neighbor Tipp City to the south.

Tipp City has been meeting on how to best staff and fund its fire/EMS services as it moves from a volunteer to a combined full-time, part-time and volunteer operation.

Patrick Titterington, Troy's public service and safety director, said the concept is for a study to look at station locations, call volumes, training facilities, and equipment resources and identify which departments are full time, hybrid or all volunteers.

Troy, like others, is seeing a long wait time for receipt of new ambulances and other equipment, with the prices on the rise, making exploration of shared resources a need, he said.

Full-time departments also report difficulties with recruitment and staffing.

"It is to just try to understand what we have countywide and what kind of things a neutral outside firm could tell us we could do better," Titterington said of the proposed study.

Simmons said there was no preconceived plan. "I don't know about looking at a countywide fire department, countywide EMS as much as is there a better way to do the resources (equipment with increasing costs), a better mutual aid agreement?" he said. Some issues possibly could be addressed through priority dispatching through the center computer dispatch, he added.

The proposed funding for the study was the county American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA funds, or the general center operating funds.

County Commissioner Greg Simmons said commissioners wouldn't pay for the whole bill with ARPA dollars. It isn't clear if any money the commissioners set aside for grants to part-time/volunteer fire and EMS departments will be left. The deadline to apply is Aug. 31.

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