Hey everyone,

  At my POC dept we don't have any guidelines on response to EMS calls or fire/other. We respond as EMT's and provide the first response care before the ALS ambulance arrives. We have some guys that will go Code 3 to toe pain and we have some guys that will go routine on chest pain calls. I've brought this up with the Chiefs and they don't want a policy holding people down to and not allow them to think on there own. I can respect that, but I think more people are confused on whats approperate and whats not for type of response.  So I would like to bring this up again to them in 2014.

What does your department offer to you for guidelines or recommendations? I am looking to see what people have out there.  I'm aware of the dispatch centers that code Alpha - Echo levels, we use that at my Full-time FF job but we provide all ALS and transport so the dispatch center is more prepared. We don't have the luxury of that at the smaller dept.

If you would rather PM me with the info to keep your name and ideas off the site feel free to respond to me that way to.

Thanks in advance!

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Reality it is many times dependent on the call takers ability to understand the needs of the customer - and yes EMS patients are our customers.  A response should be based upon the perecived needs of the customer as understood by the dispatcher.  If a department is going to establish a standard for response it should be coordinated with the dispatch center so they understand how to broadcast the calls for service.  EMS staffers must also be provided with the appropriate response standards.  The problem that can arise is when a dispatcher misevaluates a call for service and the response is not proper - the EMS workers will begin to have doubts as to the abilities of the dispatchers to properly handle the assigning of a level of dispatch to calls for service

I'm aware of the dispatch centers that code Alpha - Echo levels, we use that at my Full-time FF job but we provide all ALS and transport so the dispatch center is more prepared. We don't have the luxury of that at the smaller dept.

Who does the dispatching for your smaller dept?

If your FT depts utilizes the Alpha to Echo level type of response, why would it be different for the smaller dept? Response would still apply regardless of a First Responder or ALS response.

Ask how your members are going to justify going lights and siren to a "Toe Pain" in court if they get into an accident and injure or kill someone. Believe me the lawyers will eat them up alive.

Jeff summarizes my opinions best regarding response modes. In this litigious society we must be even more cautious than ever. But the main reason to respond non-emergent when there doesn't seem to be a threat to life or property is, as Jeff explained, to not endanger ourselves and everybody else. Common sense must be our guide since most of us (We're first responders.)  don't have the type of response mode protocols you mentioned.

  Brennan, just so I am clear. Are you talking about how members respond to a scene in there POVs or in a Department vehicle?

   Regrdless your Department needs to have SOGs in place. Not only do your members risk being sued and charged should they have an accident. Your Department is also liable as are the Chief officers. 

   Have you considered copying the ambulances' SOGs?

If I respond non-emergency to a call that seems minor and turns out to be a real emergency, the time delayed hardly is noticeable. Plus we got there safe...........................We are to solve the problem, not create another problem. We didn't cause that person's chest pain or that vehicle accident. But we are to correct it.

I agree with Jeff's statements here. The whole Alpha to echo stuff is essentially for dispatch and I can not tell you how often we have changed a response from that. However, they do give a general base of what a response priority would be and really the "D" and "E" responses would tend to be a priority which "C" on the edge.


Going back to Jeff's statements, when responding non-priority the time difference between non-priority and priority is usually minimal, especially where less traffic is concerned. Regardless of the litigation stuff, which shouldn't be the deciding factor, is the fact that you are responding to help. You are doing nobody a darn bit of good if you don't get there safely. This is also why I'm against having lights on a POV or responding to all calls priority.



Our policy:

We Default to Baseline Response Modes in the Interest of Operational Consistency

  • Operators/Officers may change response mode based on reliable information.
  • Units announce changes in response mode.

Baseline Response Modes

ECHO All Units RED
CHARLIE Closest Unit RED, 2nd Due Unit RED*
BRAVO Closest Unit RED*, 2nd Due Unit YELLOW

* Based on careful risk/benefit analysis.

I don't agree at all.  What if something really is wrong?  You want to take your time getting there?  I will go non-emergency to the hospital but never to the call itself.  I can't tell you how many times I responded to an alpha call to find something severe.  Our dispatchers aren't trained in ems, nor are they the smartest people over here.  I'd rather get there quickly and make the decision myself.

Just because you are driving with your lights and siren doesn't mean you need to get all excited and drive unsafely.  It's your job to be a professional regardless of what's happening.  If someone is unexperienced and can't handle it, then he shouldn't be driving in the first place.  After going on 20 runs/tour, it's pretty easy to respond in a relaxed manner.  

I also don't agree with you saying it doesn't save time.  I save a TON of time by using my lights and siren.  Maybe if you're in a rural area it won't make a huge difference but here we have what's consistently rated as some of the worst traffic in the nation, stop lights on every corner, and people who decide to cross the street whenever they feel like.  I can split response times and half by using lights and sirens.  I don't want to be the one to explain to someone that their family member died because we decided they weren't important enough for lights and sirens and we took awhile to show up.

Yes, everybody goes home.  However this is also a dangerous job.  You can't play every single move safe.


I can understand your reasonings to respond emergency to any and every call given the nature of the traffic and so forth that you do experience there. However, in the majority of places there is no reason to be running lights and sirens to some of the calls one is dispatched to. Now granted things can change depending upon further information one receives while enroute, but it comes down to individual responses.


Now, I do agree that responding lights and sirens doesn't mean one has to get all excited and drive recklessly, but part of the reasoning for responding non-priority stems from other drivers and general public, not just the responder. This comes from potential accidents and subsequent injuries that idiot drivers may cause because of responding lights and siren. Since public safety is still our priority in the majority of places out there, there is no need for such responses given the nature of the call. Why chance an accident or cause one responding to non-traumatic back pain for the past several days, etc?

I'm still trying to figure out what two thirds of a code is. Where is that listed in NIMS terminology, that "everybody" uses?

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