It’s a matter of time and priorities

Regular readers of the Fire Calls column in the Mesquite Local News, may have noted a slight change in the report.

The listing for “No Resources Available To Respond To Additional Calls” has been deleted.

If you think this was done to cover up times when Mesquite Fire & Rescue did not answer an emergency call you would be greatly mistaken. But you would understand why the item has been deleted. It was causing confusion.

“While we understood exactly what it meant, and didn’t feel it was confusing, it was generating tremendous confusion in the public about what it meant,” Capt. John Gately told the MLN.  “Essentially it was a momentary snapshot in time where we did not have anyone available, at not least on paper.”

The department keeps track of its readiness. One method is using a multicolored graph that is based on national standards. It charts the number of crews available in the firehouse for each shift. The Mesquite department, with its limited resources, often enough over the past few years falls below that national standard. But that doesn’t mean that units are not available to respond to an emergency. It just means they are not on standby at the fire station.

“We may (be) able to clear a crew from another call to run additional calls, or even cleared a crew from the hospital,” Gately explained.

But when “No Resources Available To Respond To Additional Calls” was listed it meant there wasn’t an unoccupied crew at that “moment in time” to respond, Gately said.

Many readers believed that meant there were emergency calls that were not answered.

Gately noted that on a previous Fire Calls report before the change there were 13 instances of “No Resources Available To Respond To Additional Calls.”

“(That was) 13 moments in time we had no one else available.  It was interpreted as we didn’t respond 13 times.”

That wasn’t the case. All emergency calls were answered.

There still is a listing for “delayed 911 responses” and “911 incidents unable to respond.” Those are actual times, when emergencies must wait for a busy crew to finish its previous call or another crew from another agency is dispatched.

Don’t be deceived. Our firefighters and EMTs do not sit around the fire house swapping chili recipes or petting a Dalmatian. These men and women are overworked but determined to tend to the health and safety needs of the community.

It’s hoped the “delayed 911 responses” and “911 incidents unable to respond” categories continue to get a zero entered.

But the situation is not going to improve on its own. No matter how determined our emergency workers are, they are unable to be in two places at the same time.

The mayor and city council will address this issue sooner or later. It’s complicated and will take a lot of study and public hearings.

They’ve worked through the complicated details, held public hearings and passed the crucial bike path plan and worked through several months of committee meetings and public hearings before passing the fee increases at the Mesquite Recreation Center, so staffing at Mesquite Fire & Rescue must be getting closer to the top of the let’s-do-something-about-it pile.

It’s just a matter of time and priorities.

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