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Wellesley firefighters expect to answer fewer calls

Looking to reduce the number of call-outs, the Wellesley Fire Department will be responding to priority situation and eliminating those where its firefighters are not needed.

A new formula for responding to tiered-response calls was approved by township councillors meeting virtually on Tuesday night.

A report from township fire chief Paul Redman noted that because of the township’s geography, there is a delayed response from EMS (ambulance) that go beyond the coverage and hospital-offload issues seen across the region. Because of the current tiered-response agreement, firefighters are often dispatched to calls where they can offer very little assistance, he said.

The report identifies changes to develop a clear line of calls where firefighters, as medical first-responders, can provide a meaningful, life-saving intervention by being on scene first or in addition to EMS.

Redman told councillors meeting  September 1 that by making these changes, firefighters can ensure they provide the lifesaving intervention needed, adding the reduction in unnecessary response will be good for the township overall.

Mayor Joe Nowak agreed the new plan will be good, noting other municipalities may look at what is being done and follow suit.

Under the current agreement, there are 15 tiers to which Wellesley firefighters respond, as opposed to the 11 in the new arrangement. While changes were made, all responses are covered under another category and allows the department to “administer lifesaving procedures based on our training, tools and scope of practice.”

A review of calls from Jan. 1, 2019 to Aug. 12, 2020 showed the department had responded to 237 calls. Based on the criteria underlined in the new agreement, they would not have responded to 97 of those calls, a decrease of 41 per cent.  Under the new rules, cost savings of between $10,000 and $12,000 would have been realized.

Redman said the next steps include going into a new arrangement with Waterloo Region EMS and the dispatch centre in London. After that, the next move would be to contact dispatch administered by the Kitchener Fire Department. The changes are expected to take at least three to four weeks.

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