Ocean City Today

Calls to firefighters, EMS slightly down this summer

By Katie Tabeling | Sep 28, 2017

(Sept. 29, 2017) No calls to firefighters and paramedics in Ocean City went unanswered this past summer, according to the Ocean City Fire Department’s 2017 seasonal review, presented to the City Council by Chief Chris Larmore.

“The simple goal is to never have a call that personnel can’t respond to, and that’s difficult when we have 6,000 calls a year,” he said during Tuesday’s work session. “I can report that if all units are responding to a call, it doesn’t mean the next one isn’t answered. The supervisor might pull someone off a crew, call in volunteers or handle it himself.”

Between May and September, calls for fire and medical emergencies dropped for the first time in four years to 3,108 calls. Breaking that total down, roughly 80 percent of calls were for paramedics.

Out of the 486 calls to firefighters, only six required “fire suppression operations,” according to the report.

“It goes without saying that Ocean City is a safe place to be,” Larmore said.

Downtown and midtown prove to be the high call volume areas, according to the report. The section of town between 40th Street and 94th Street had the greatest amount this summer with 857 calls, followed by 94th Street north to Delaware at 674 calls.

West Ocean City tallied 311 calls for service, and Councilman Dennis Dare thought the council could help decrease that number.

“I’ve noticed calls from medical facilities in West Ocean City to transport patients to a [hospital]. We’re obligated to help with our agreement with Worcester County, but it seems like we’re supporting businesses outside of town,” Dare said. “It’s one thing with a resident calling 9-1-1, but there’s private ambulance services that could transport from doctor’s offices.”

“I agree,” Council Secretary Mary Knight said. “At budget time, we can ask them to go with private ambulances or pay us the costs to support the service.”

OCFD paramedics made 1,206 transports to Atlantic General Hospital, 156 trips to Peninsula Regional Medical Center, and seven transports to Shock Trauma in Baltimore and Wilmington.

Moving beyond calls for service, Larmore pointed out that response times for firefighters and paramedics continue to meet industry standards. Firefighters maintained an average response time of 4:52 while paramedics answered within 3:56.

“There’s a very small number of calls where response times have an impact on calls,” Larmore said. “The majority of calls we’re there to take them to urgent care, but it’s hard to differentiate between something serious. It’s also one of the main expectations of our customers — they want us there quick.”

The Fire Marshal’s Office completed 372 inspections and handled 98 complaints this summer. Volunteers provided 8,940 hours of service, which dropped from the 9,290 hours logged in 2016. Larmore said this was because two volunteers that put in a lot of time last year scaled back their hours.

Other highlights include the fire department working on a new alert system that would contact staff members and volunteers in the area of an incident, whether they’re on-call or off-duty. Larmore said this would give the department another edge in a field they’re already excelling in: service.

“My goal is to give an even better report next year, and it’s hard to do because I don’t know how we can keep improving,” he said. “But it’s all thanks to the people in the streets — the volunteers, the paramedics, the fire marshals and the firefighters. They know truly how to make this work. It’s like football. We can have the best coaches and owners, but if we don’t have the right team, then they won’t win the Super Bowl.”

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