By Allison G. S. Knox
Emergency management at all levels requires careful use of available resources. The better we manage our resources, the better we can help our communities to recover from disasters.
However, resource management can be complicated. Many communities throughout the United States have placed emergency medical services (ambulances) and fire departments into the same organization, requiring the first responders who handle fires and medical emergencies to be cross-trained in fire management and prehospital emergency medicine.
From a budget standpoint, this organizational structure makes sense. This strategy allows first responders to handle a wider variety of 911 calls and can improve resource management.
Separating Fire Departments and EMS Agencies
But in some communities in the United States, some are arguing that local-level public safety resources would be better managed if these first responder agencies were two separate organizations. For instance, Justin Brennan, a New York City Council member, recently proposed splitting emergency medical services and the fire service in New York City.
Splitting Fire and EMS Won’t Work Everywhere
Splitting the fire and EMS departments would not make sense everywhere. Many rural communities, for example, have an extremely low call volume and fewer resources, so keeping fire and EMS in one organization is useful. For other communities, it may still make sense to have combined departments for budgetary reasons.
Community managers throughout the United States will have to conduct self-assessments to evaluate whether it would make sense to separate their fire department and EMS providers. Ultimately, these community managers will have to consider what works best for their residents and businesses.