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Fire Trends Report: Number of EMS calls vs. Fire Calls

ESO Staff

As an industry leader in fire, pre-hospital, and hospital industries, ESO encounters a wealth of data from its clients and partners. Each year, fire data is collected and analyzed to offer insights into the most pressing data trends being faced by fire agencies in the U.S. The goal is to assist fire agencies in setting more meaningful performance metrics, comparing themselves to peers, setting the stage for future conversations and challenges, and inspiring agencies to use their own data to bring about real improvement.

The results of the analysis are found in the 2019 ESO Fire Trends Report, compiled from 638,979 calls, from January 1, 2019-June 30, 2019. From this data, five key topics were researched, including a deeper look into the most common type of responses overall, and then focused into Fire calls specifically.

Percentage Fire Calls vs. EMS Calls

Perhaps not surprisingly, data from fire departments show they respond to more EMS calls (300 series) than Fire calls (100 series). In fact, in the sampling of data, more than 70% of calls were EMS calls.

Outside of 300 series calls, the most common incident types included false alarms, good intent, and service call. In fact, only 2% of calls were truly calls relating to fire suppression. That said, one could argue that the amount of resources, risk, and potential loss of life and property are, of course, significantly higher in a 100-series call. In fact, there were over 14,000 fire calls reported in the data.

Recommended Actions

So, how does this picture of the daily operations of a fire station affect decision-making for the agency?

  • Hire Cross-Trained Individuals: With the significant proportion of calls requiring EMS services, it benefits an agency to hire cross-trained fire fighters. If you have fire fighters in your agency that are not also EMTs, consider ways to encourage them to pursue this additional training and certification.
  • Increase Communication with Local EMS Agencies: If your department doesn’t currently offer EMS services, use the opportunity to collaborate more closely with EMS agencies in your community. The ability to share data and insights across organizations can help improve patient outcomes as well as firefighter safety. Sharing data about properties, for example, can improve response times for EMS, and also help formulate more specific response plans.
  • Partner with EMS to Improve Community Safety: Collaboration between EMS and fire departments around public health and safety programs – including healthcare, prevention, and fire safety – can provide much broader engagement to help improve the health and safety of a community. Examples of these types of programs include slip, trip, and fall prevention; community health/wellness education; and community partnerships for mental health, medication assistance, and home food delivery for the elderly.
  • Share Pre-Hospital Information with Emergency Rooms: If your agency does provide EMS services, consider spending some time improving your communication with local hospitals. Just like care begins when a 9-1-1 call is received, it also continues until discharge. It can greatly improve care on both sides of the ED doors for hospital and EMS staff to increase communication and be able to promptly review a completed case for successes and lessons learned. Today’s EMS software offers this bi-directional communication that helps EMTs see exactly what happened to his or her patient after transport.
  • Continue to Train for High-Risk/Low-Frequency Calls: While on paper that number looks low – only 2% of calls being fire calls, it’s imperative that agencies continue to diligently train and prepare for those 14,000+ calls as they inevitably come with more deadly circumstances. The fire calls may be less frequent, but they have the potential to affect many more lives and square-feet of property in a very short amount of time.
  • See How Your Agency Compares: Take the opportunity to look at your own data and see if your own statistics follow this similar pattern. If they do not, ask yourself why. What is working in your community to reduce the number of 300 series calls? Or, conversely, what community risks and hazards might be driving up the percentage of 100 series calls? This insight is a helpful tool in better understanding your community and forming outreach and education plans where needed.
  • Use This Data to Make Your Case: Comparing your agency’s own number and type of call responses to your peers across the nation can help you make a compelling case when it comes time to budget for staffing, resources, and equipment. This data can help guide decision makers in allotting resources to the areas most likely to face the most need in the months to come.

Additional Insight

In addition to insight into the most common types of calls received by fire departments, the 2019 ESO Fire Trends report covers four additional topics:

  • Average first apparatus travel and turnout time
  • Most common property types for fire responses
  • Most common response types
  • Most common property type and documentation of total property loss

Download the full report now to learn more about these additional insights.

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