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UPDATED – Read DC Council’s scathing report on state of fire & EMS in the Nation’s Capital. Committee expected to vote down Chief Ellerbe’s EMS redeployment plan today.

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More coverage: Andrea Noble, The Washington Times; Mark Segraves & Mila Mimica, WRC-TV/NBC4; Jay Korff, WJLA-TV/ABC 7.

Read IAFF Local 36 press release

Read entire 29-page report

Paul Wagner, WTTG-TV/Fox 5:

The D.C. Fire Department’s plan to put more ambulances on the street during peak demand times has been dealt a major setback.

Tommy Wells, the chairman of the D.C. City Council’s Judiciary Committee, says in a written report he has “no confidence” the department can make it work with its current staffing and fleet.

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In the 29 page report prepared for the full Judiciary Committee, Tommy Wells uses strong language in defending his position. Saying the approval of the fire chief’s plan “could have serious consequences for public safety.”

Just after Kenneth Ellerbe took office as D.C.’s new fire chief, he and the mayor’s office came up with a plan to add ambulances during peak demand times in the afternoon and early evening.

The proposed legislation, if approved, would shift resources and take 14 medic units out of service after midnight.

But in the report to the committee, Wells says the department “failed to produce evidence or documentation supporting the number of ambulances it says are needed during peak demand times”.

“We don’t believe that the department has the ability to cover all the needs already and so we can’t support decreasing ambulance services in the district at this time”, Tommy Wells said in an interview Thursday.

In the report Wells writes, “Over the past two years, the Department has failed to adequately hire, recruit, internally train, or retain paramedics, resulting in shortages that are putting the system in crisis”.

“Unfortunately we have been sounding the alarm for two plus years now and finally getting the just recognition that it in this report”, said Firefighters Union President Ed Smith.

To bolster his position, Wells also points out the trouble the department has had in filling its scheduled shifts, writing, “Since October 1, 2012, the Department has had exactly 424 shifts. FEMS was only able to deploy all 14 scheduled (Advanced Life Support) transports in only 16 of those shifts (or) 3.7%”.

Tommy Wells says he’s troubled by the departments hiring practices and the way it’s gone about procuring new equipment.

“There is no reason to not have enough paramedics and enough staff for emergency medical services because they are fully funded for these services, already their overtime is skyrocketing and that has everything to do with not hiring enough staff”, he said.

In recent months the fire department has had to deal with embarrassing incidents in which ambulances haven’t been available for critically ill patients, including a police officer hit by a car and a man in cardiac arrest New Year’s Eve.

Outside the Wilson Building Thursday afternoon, City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson as well as judiciary committee member Jack Evans both said they agreed with Tommy Wells recommendation not to support the ambulance redeployment plan.

Mary Cheh, also a member of the judiciary committee, made it known Thursday evening she would not support the plan which means the legislation now likely dies in committee sometime Friday.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Barney Miller

    This is going to be AWESOME. Every time someone points out how horrible or unintelligent SWEllerbe is, he comes to work and turns up the volume on the dirty firemen that made him look bad. As hot and crazy as it has been lately…..somebody is gonna JUMP! If the Mayor comes out and gives the “full confidence” speech again it will be ME. We should just fire everyone from Pennsylvania and the Administrator would be able to think straight and figure all this mess out.

    I hope this doesn’t last past the middle of July.

  • CHAOS

    Haven’t those silly Council members noticed how spiffy LRB looks in his uniform??
    C’mon people, let’s focus on what’s really important here.

  • Harvey Glick

    Let the blame games begin!

  • FridayFred

    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0706467

    Defibrillator has to be applied in 1 to 2 minutes. Everything else is fail. What is the average time to defibrillation in Washington DC? 10 minutes?

  • Tom

    Dave, Can you post a link to the actual report?

    • dave statter

      Link is now up.

  • Mobella

    This is a manufactured crises. It could have been averted. Ellerbe has lost the city millions and endangered lives for no reason other than he was trying to push his political agenda. Quander and Miramontes are shamefully part of this mess, the latter still has many years of work to do but this will follow him everywhere. It is time for Ellerbe to resign or be fired. DC taxpayers should be outraged.

  • 1dctaxpayer

    Stick to what you know, changing the logo, and plastering your picture in every firehouse. Hows that working out for ya?
    Oh and drinking from a Harvard coffee mug apparently makes you stupid!

  • Fire21

    Is there a light beginning to shine at the end of this tunnel?

    • Anonymous

      Yes it is…….It’s called Third Service!!!!

  • fmch

    Sheesh, if this guy came were to issue a report on my department, it’d make his head asplode.

  • Truckie

    You see that flash of light in the corner of your eye? That’s your career dissipation light. It just went into high gear….

  • JoeDavola

    208 Paramedics? That is more than enough to staff the city. ALS engines have no proven benefit – NONE. It is a waste of money and, again, does NOTHING to help patients beyond what an EMT can do. Either send paramedic/FFs to ambulances or remove their paramedic status and cut their pay. Actually, considering these guys signed on to a department that is primarily EMS, just assign them to ambulances fulltime. If they don’t like it, they can go find another place to work (no forced them to become medics).

    • Anonymous

      Guess you haven’t been paying attention they didn’t like it so they left. That’s why there are no medics on the street at all!

    • Anonymous

      I agree! There’s not one hospital in the city that a BLS unit cannot reach within 8 Minutes.

  • HOOKMAN

    This just in…..Mayor Gray just said…our evil diabolical plan is in high gear now and I have full confidence in Kenneth to continue to lead this department into the ground….until this agency is stripped of all morale, apparatus in full disarray, everyone member has at least one charge against them and ALL members are in FULL SACK COAT COMPLIANCE…we will have accomplished our goal and completely destroyed an entire agency…way to go Vinny & Kenny….

    LAST…we’d like to thank those in jail, those pending trial, those involved in the shadow campaign, but have yet to be indicted…without your corruptness and dedication, I wouldn not have been elected nor would I been allowed to hire my incompetent friend Kenneth…you truly are shining stars…god bless

  • Paramedic

    I know they could get paramedics if they just opened up the hiring. Me and several buddies finished paramedic school 6 months ago and I know we all would jump at the chance to work in DC. Its a total crock of shit saying they can get paramedics.

  • Sam

    JoeDavola, “ALS engines have no proven benefit – NONE. It is a waste of money and, again, does NOTHING to help patients beyond what an EMT can do”

    If you honestly think a EMT can render the same level of care as a Paramedic you are clueless.

    Furthermore 208 paramedics for a city with a population of 600k is to me extremely low. The City I live in has a population of 100k. Has 12 ambulances all staff with Paramedics everyday they never go out of service, Plus the engines have a medic on board as well. The department has 250 personal 85 of which are medics. For a city of 100k they have almost have of the paramedic staffing for DC.

    • JoeDavola

      There is no medical evidence showing ALS engines to be any better than BLS engines. Seattle has a pop. of 620,000, 7 medic units, only 76 paramedics, no ALS engines, and they have one of the highest cardiac arrest save rate in the world. Boston has a pop. of 625,000, 5 medic units at peak hours, and <70 medics. Also known to have one of the best cardiac save rate, also without ALS engines. No where in NJ or DE is there an ALS engine.

      200 isn't low, if anything it's more than enough. At best, 20% of EMS transport require ALS – so why many when they're not needed 80% of the time? Again, take the medics off the engines and put them on ambulances where they're actually useful.

      ALS engines serve one purpose: PR and needlessly inflating a budget. It does nothing else.

      • Mobella

        WRONG JOE

      • http://phillesh bob weir

        Joe, you chose two outlier models to compare DC with; Baltimore is much more similar to DC, and they have ALS trained firefighters on most of the engines and trucks as well as the ambulances. Furthermore, the ratio of true working fires to false alarms/food on the stove is similar to the BLS/ALS 80/20 argument you made…should we pare down the box assignments too? Should we reduce staffing on the engines/trucks/squads? ALS saves lives, so does good CPR and good BLS skills, and so do aggressive interior fire attacks. If we as civil servants are committed to providing the highest quality services possible, then ALS trained firefighters are necessary on transport AND suppression units. If you have a problem with the way the field is evolving then maybe you should retire or find a department that only runs fire calls.

        • JoeDavola

          You want more cities without ALS engines that do fine with EMS? Raleigh, NYC, Pittsburgh, Denver, Richmond, Newark, Jersey City, and nearly every major city in the developed world outside the US. Most of those places could run circles around DC and Baltimore in terms of EMS all without the expensive, wasteful ALS engines.

          You can’t prove ALS engines do anything but waste money.

          I know, it’s a bitter pill to swallow. But, the IAFF doesn’t like to feed you truth, so when you’re hooked on their BS, it can be tough to face reality.

      • fmch

        False Joe. The IAFF with NIST & UNCMC did an EMS staffing study. Here, read it for yourself. http://www.iaff.org/tech/PDF/EMS%20Nist%20Report_LORES.pdf

        • BH

          fmch- it’s not like the IAFF had anything to gain by that study, right?

          Come back with published, peer-reviewed MEDICAL evidence. Anything else has an agenda.

        • JoeDavola

          That’s not medical evidence. No peer-reviewed medical journal would ever touch that. Besides, it’s basically a lab experiment. Nothing about patient outcomes. It’s useless (as an ALS engine).

      • Anonymous

        Joe, I’m sure the guys will LOVE you for getting them even more ambo details by pushing less ALS and more BLS. Great plan. Thanks douche.

        • JoeDavola

          If you didn’t want to work on an ambulance, then you shouldn’t have become paramedic. No one forced it on you or them.

      • BH

        Careful Joe, the IAFF knows better. All medics, all the time to put an ALS resource onscene of everyone on the planet in 4 minutes or less. Anything else will result in the Apocalypse.

        Sam- he never sand an EMT and a paramedic can do the same thing. He said there is no medical evidence to back the claim that a paramedic arriving before an ambulance result in better outcomes than an EMT arriving before an ambulance.

        • FMCH

          False. See the study I posted. Personal incedulity is a logical fallacy BH.

  • http://statter911 Glad to be retired

    In fact this is a manufactured crisis, it still amazes me how those council people just do not understand and then my friend formerly of upper nw point’s ever so quickly that all these people are college educated and have really never got their hands dirty. Just like many of younger f/f’s, our college educated children they are smart but seriously lack common sense, a good friend who is an engineer from an ivy league school and from a blue collar family suggested 6 years ago we star an academy for basic thru advanced common sense learning.
    This is exactly were these council folks come in, they are afraid to challenge Ken because they just cannot wrap their arms around the business. Phil had the longest run and he really never got it, he always felt he was disrespected, not many know it but he was talked into running for council and then shuddered at being the Judiciary chr. It is time for them to trust ED SMITH and his gang, to teach them and explain why we do what and how it is so much better than everywhere else. OMG then you have the people bitching about sirens, take off the lights and sirens and respond to their joint at rush hour and have a relative of God forbid a pet die OH GAME ON. But be quiet for everyone else please!!! Really it is the most high maintenance , easily bullied society on the coast, who do I mean easily bullied, yes there have been many citizen fabricated phone calls that were not 911 but well placed call to complain about the fire dept and no you will never get to the bottom of it. Just think of the mentality of those who witnessed murders throughout the bad years, they do not snitch on each other, until of course KEN is gone then hold on. Oh yeah what about all those who posted here 24/7 about the last administration, where are they at bet they are just like a bay with pudding on their face and they gave away the napkin.

  • Hoseman

    I read that Dennis Rubin applied at New Orleans. If he gets the job and leaves after 6 months or doesn’t get the job, maybe he could go back to DC.. It seems he is never happy where he lands a job.

    • http://statter911.com Anonymous

      I am so glad Tommy actually took the time to do a little investigating into this matter. It’s refreshing to see a council member trying to do a good job. The firemen have been sounding the alarm for a long time. Thank god folks are starting to listen and consider what we’ve been saying. All of us want to provide a good service. Maybe we will get some help doing it.

  • HOOKMAN

    Dennis Rubin has applied to Plano, Tx, Coral somewhere in Florida and I believe Readung, Pa to name a few….you’d think with an ego the size of his everyone would be in line to retain such a fire service legend, however, nobody wants him and its been proven since he left DC for the SECOND TIME, because his services are no longer needed….he’s as much of a dirtbag as the present DC Chief turd, so don’t think im playing favorites…I dislike them equally….i know iknow…Rubin lt everyone wear shorts and if he and Schultzy didn’t mess with you they were great people…

    • Is that you John Wayne?

      Let the rest of the jokers tell it Rubin wasn’t that bad wateve. At least this chief has moved people around giving others a chance to work at different assignments. No one is immune from punishment for stupid behavior I like that. We have never had structure and accountability in this department. I may not agree with everything this chief does,but atleast he doesn’t play upto the membership now that’s leadership.

  • 20 year capt

    I vote for private third service first response and transport, and let the chips fall where they may: 3 man companies, closed stations, quints, whatever. Bring it on. Let the ambulance people handle prehospital medicine, and gut every bit of cushy fat out of the FD.

  • 20 Years In

    100 day plan:

    #1 sack Ellerbe, Appoint AFC-O as interim chief, and begin national search for a qualified fire chief.
    #2 Create a non-partisan fire & EMS commission that has complete authority and responsibility for the operation and oversight of the Fire Department.
    #3 Lift overtime cap
    #4 Consolidate single role providers to 3 assigned, full-duty personnel per unit on each shift. I’m guessing this is about 5 units.
    #5 Assign the other 9 units to the FFD.
    #6 Staff each unit at the station level. No one does more than 14h straight on one. Overtime on the transport units.
    #7 Attempt to staff each and every available reserve & EMOP ambulance from 9a to 9p.
    #8 Scrape the barrel, suspend other programs, get staff from offices to ambulances from now until the end of summer.
    #9 Emergency hire 5 private ambulances to operate 9a-9p for ‘Alpha’ & ‘Omega’ runs.
    #10 Begin national recruitment of certified FF2/EMTs

    1 year plan:

    Consolidate FF/Paramedics, EMS Captains, & Paramedic Fire Officers to three personnel per unit per platoon. I’m guessing this is about 8 units. Equip them with a johnny & roy Paramedic squad and assign them to one engine per battalion, doubling up in the 2nd & 3rd battalions. If all three show up, one can ride the engine, and that engine can go in service as an “Paramedic assessment” Engine. Switch dispatch to: EMS calls get immediate dispatch of nearest transport unit. Charlie & Delta calls also get Paramedic Squad, if it’s available. Make Paramedics justify each and every transport they make. If it’s not, send a Paramedic Assessment Engine. TEACH BLS PROVIDERS TO TRANSPORT PATIENTS TO THE HOSPITAL WITHOUT WAITING FOR ALS.