OFD call volume dropped significantly in 2023 after altering response strategy

February 21, 2024 | 12:11 am

Updated February 20, 2024 | 11:59 pm

File photo by Josh Kelly

The Owensboro Fire Department responded to almost 2,600 fewer calls in 2023 than the year prior — a result of altering their response strategy to combat firefighter fatigue. Namely, OFD was largely able to cut out non-emergency calls.

OFD Chief James Howard said the department received 5,712 calls for service in 2023. That’s down from 8,300 in 2022 and 9,600 in 2021.

“That doesn’t mean that there were any severe incidents that required attention that we didn’t go to this past year,” he said. “It’s the fact that we were able to hone our call-taking abilities to make sure that we’re going on to true emergencies whenever we’re working.”

OFD changed their response criteria in 2022 to raise morale and lower fatigue. At that time, Howard said there had 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 in 2022.

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

So, OFD began directly responding to only accidents with injuries, cardiac arrests, drownings, jumpers, shootings and stabbings, and suicide attempts with bleeding. For other non-emergency calls, dispatch relayed information to AMR ambulance, which in turn would only call for additional help from OFD as needed.

Following the change, Howard said, OFD’s monthly call volume was nearly cut in half.

He emphasized that OFD is still responding throughout the community to a number of scenarios.

Howard reported the following response numbers for 2023:

  • 372 fires
    • 31 structure fires
    • 26 cooking fires
    • 32 vehicle fires
  • 3,811 EMS/rescues
    • 305 respiratory
    • 129 traumatic injury
    • 615 cardiac

Going into 2024, Howard said he has several goals for the department, including better preparing firefighters to fight electric vehicle fires, completing the construction of the fire training center, and achieving Commission on Fire Accreditation International accreditation.

One of the more unique goals this year is utilizing Owensboro’s Sister City Olomouc, Czech Republic, to provide some training.

“There’s gonna be more news on that soon. There are very exciting opportunities there with cultural exchange and educational exchange,” Howard said.

The trip is scheduled to take place in the coming months.

February 21, 2024 | 12:11 am

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