OFD alters response strategy to raise morale, performance among firefighters

December 22, 2022 | 12:09 am

Updated December 21, 2022 | 9:58 pm

Photo by Nathan Seaton

Owensboro Fire Department Chief James Howard said that over the past year there has been fatigue among firefighters, but OFD is combatting that by altering their strategy on responding to certain types of calls.

Howard said there has been a 24% increase in calls over the past 5 years, with rescue and emergency medical services calls being the major contributor. However, there was often not an actual emergency in many of those cases.

“Group after group within the fire department noted the rising call volume and especially the emphasis on EMS calls that turned out not to be emergency runs once they got to the scene. It started causing issues and has been causing issues within our department for some time,” Howard said.

The constant run for non-emergencies on top of an already high workload that includes recruitment and maintenance has begun to take a toll on the department internally, Howard said.

In October, Howard had a meeting with 911 Dispatch Director Paul Nave and they plotted out the biggest needs in the community. In November, they changed procedures to “provide more immediate OFD dispatch” to calls that are seen as the most serious in the community.

So last month, OFD directly responded to only accidents with injuries, cardiac arrests, drownings, jumpers, shootings and stabbings, and suicide attempts with bleeding.

“Those are the most serious and obviously serious. Now those are still getting transferred over to AMR to be dispatched for their ambulances, but we’re not waiting to get more information. We already know that in those cases we need to be on the road,” Howard said.

As for other calls, Howard said dispatch will still relay information to AMR, which can then call for additional help from OFD as needed.

With the changes, Howard said the department went from 827 calls in November 2021 to 401 calls this November.

“The call volume has definitely decreased. It’s decreased more than expected. I expected us to see about a 25% decrease in our overall run volume based on the historical statistics,” Howard said.

In addition, the firetrucks used 15% less fuel.

Since the change, Howard has heard that the morale has improved significantly among the firefighters.

Another change that will also help is hiring more staff to then increase the time between the calls for any given firefighter. However, that is a long-term solution compared to the fix that have currently, Howard said.

December 22, 2022 | 12:09 am

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