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Raytown Fire District’s Dispatching and EMS Proposal

On June 3rd, the Raytown Fire Protection District switched from using the dispatching services of the Raytown Police Department to using the services of the Kansas City Fire Department. RaytownOnline.com has published two articles on this matter in the past (http://raytownonline.com/2013/raytown-fire-protection-district-changes-dispatching-service/  & http://raytownonline.com/2013/raytown-fire-board-meeting/)  The first was essentially a press release from the Fire District and the second was a video of a Fire Board meeting. 

The reasons cited for the switch are

1. Money, Kansas City is providing dispatch for free and the Fire District was paying $55,000 a year for Raytown Police dispatch services.

2. Lowering our rating with the insurance companies (lower is better). ISO (Insurance Services Office) gives fire protection districts a rating of 1 to 10. Raytown’s Fire District is rated at a 4.  This rating is use to formulate a PPC  (Public Protection Classification)  and the PPC  if used to calculate rate insurance companies charge.  ISO states that the average loss per $1,000 of insured property is twice as much for the worst rated communities as it is for the best rated communities.  Click HERE to see the ISO manual and pay attention to page 4 that graphs out the differences. 

ISO ratings are dependent on 3 criteria: equipment and men, water supply, and dispatching quality. According the the Fire Chief, Raytown has seen improvement in the first two areas since the previous rating by ISO in 1998, but lack of improvement in the 3rd area (dispatching) resulted in no improvement in Raytown’s rating of a 4.   Kansas City is mostly rated 2 or 3 depending on the area of the city (with some isolated areas rated as high as 9) and the area around Raytown is mostly a 3 rating.  There is a possibility that by using KCFD dispatch Raytown property owners could see their insurance rates drop a small amount when ISO gets around to re-evaluating Raytown’s rating (the last time span was about 14 years) and if the property owners insurance company uses the ISO ratings (State Farm and many other major companies are using in-house ratings and no longer using ISO, according to a local insurance agent). 

As part of moving dispatching from Raytown PD to KCFD,  Raytown has gone from a mutual aid status to an automatic aid status.  Mutual aid means Raytown will help Kansas City in response to a requested need.  Automatic aid and unified dispatch means that the KCFD dispatchers make the decisions about which units respond to which call automatically.  The first month of the switch resulted in a much larger percentage of Raytown FD responding to calls in Kansas City than Kansas City FD responding to calls in Raytown.  Since then, according to the Raytown FD, Raytown FD is still responding to Kansas City calls at a higher rate than Kansas City FD is responding to Raytown calls, but the disparity is smaller.  

How does dispatching actually work for Raytown now?  911 calls go to a MARC (Mid-America Regional Council) center where they are routed to the appropriate agency automatically. For a land line, the address is used  and for a cell phone, the three closest towers are used to determine location.  Fire, ambulance, and police all are reached by calling 911. When someone calls in a fire in Raytown, the MARC system routes the call to the Raytown Police dispatcher, who then routes it to the KCFD dispatcher.  With the new Raytown Police communication equipment, this may be automated to a push of a button to transfer calls to the Kansas City Fire Dept. once the nature of the call  has been determined. 

The recent proposal by the Raytown Fire District to take over EMS (ambulance) service in Raytown makes this issue even more complex. (click HERE for a RaytownOnline.com article on this proposal)  I have been advised by Chief Mawhirter that EMS would not have to be on automatic-aid, and could remain on a mutual-aid basis.  Kansas City FD is already being criticised for failing to meet a required 90% in 9 minutes response time for ambulance service. (Click HERE for an article on this in the North East News on this)  Raytown currently opperates with a average response time of under 5 minutes and requires a report if the response takes 6 minutes, according to the EMS Director Doug Jonesi.   Questions remain about how this change could be smoothly implemented.  Would EMS dispatch remain with the Raytown Police, or would Kansas City FD dispatch for both fire and EMS, and split the responses so that one is mutual-aid and the other is automatic-aid? 

EDITORIAL CONTENT

There is a cost savings to the Raytown FD of $55,000 a year, but Raytown Police actually still have to field the calls due to the way 911 calls are routed, they just do not get paid for it anymore. There eventually may be a small savings on property owners’ insurance rates, if they use an insurance company that still uses ISO for ratings and ISO takes less than 14 years to re-evaluate. However, based on the charts from ISO showing the difference in average loss between an area rated 3 and an area rated 4,  the savings would be very small.  Kansas City FD is much larger and by the nature of size and diversity of needs it must address, there are facilities, programs, and personel that Raytown could benefit from in both training and response, but do we have to be on automatic-aid status for this to happen?

Kansas City has major problems with its ambulance response time. These problems are long-standing and probably will require equipment, personnel, and upgraded facilities to fix.  Splitting the type of response in a combined Fire Department and Ambulance service with a central dispatch seems to add complications. The bottleneck is always going to be the Raytown Police Dispatch, given the way 911 calls are routed.   There needs to be an evaluation of the Raytown Police Dispatch. If problems are identified with number of personnel, training,  or equipment, then steps need to be taken to solve those problems. 

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