When you call 911, you need help immediately. And you probably figure the ambulance or fire truck closest to your house, assuming it's not busy ... will be the first one sent. Think again.
In Hamilton County, the boundary lines between the city of Cincinnati and the 40 suburban fire departments which surround it are an invisible barrier to faster response.
In this investigation, Local 12 News Reporter Jeff Hirsh takes us to another city where they do things differently and the citizens benefit.
Whether it's a raging fire, a car crash, or a medical emergency, response time is absolutely critical.Chief Richard Braun from the Cincinnati Fire Department, "The stopwatch starts the minute you are shot or have a heart attack or a stroke, you only have 6 to 8 minutes and your brain is dying."
Getting the closest fire company or ambulance to you can mean the difference between life and death. But that quick response is more likely in Columbus than Cincinnati, because of how fire and ambulance companies are dispatched."It's seamless, it's automatic."
Automatic-that's the key. In Columbus and in most of it's suburbs, the closest fire truck or ambulance goes regardless of jurisdiction. Assistant Chief Karry Ellis of the Columbus Fire Department says, "So that when you, Joe Citizen, call and say my house is on fire the engine company that's right down the street and is not in your jurisdiction doesn't sit there and look down the street and see your house burning and say well it's not my township or it's not my city."
This is the boundary line between the city of Cincinnati and Anderson Township. Now if I have a heart attack and fall forward into the city, the nearest city ambulance is in Hyde Park, six miles away. It would take about ten minutes to get here. But if if fall backwards into Anderson Township, the nearest Anderson Township firehouse is 3/4 of a mile away. That ambulance would be here in about a minute.
Cincinnati and the suburbs are now finally talking about automatic response."Well the key piece to be honest is trust." Trust that communication issues can be worked out, trust that fire fighting procedures can be standardized, and trust that employees will not see automatic response as a way to reduce jobs. "We're in an era of shared resources. You get to use our truck company and we get to use your medic."
Columbus has is called AVL, Automatic Vehicle Locater. It's kind of a GPS in reverse. With AVL, dispatch can tell where each and every fire truck and ambulance is, and dispatch it from wherever ... The hospital, the repair shop clear across town, but it still could be the closest company to a particular incident.
Chief BJ Jetter is President of the Hamilton Count Fire Chiefs Association. "At any given time during the day in Hamilton County we look at 50-60-70 per cent of our EMS supply system being depleted due to multiple runs. This is a perfect avenue to look at AVL to have the closest unit respond to serve the public."
AVL is not cheap ... and it is possible to start automatic response without it. that's what's likely to happen first. Pilot programs with some suburbs could be up and running within months. Fire fighters in Columbus say it's a good system. "For the citizens it's especially a good thing because they're going to get the closest truck and the fastest help."
Cincinnati Fire Chief Richard Braun used to be an assistant chief in Columbus ...so he's seen automatic response. He knows what Columbus has and what Cincinnati needs to better save lives and property."That's what we're in business for. To have our own little area that we don't want anybody to come to, those days are gone."