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Here’s a scenario for you. You’re the chief of a big city fire department or the director of that city’s 911 center. You run these agencies but apparently, in the digital age, the following information is not at your fingertips upon request:
- Response times
- Paramedic staffing
- Percentage of 911 calls that are fire suppression versus EMS
- 911 workers overtime hours
- Paramedic overtime hours
- Number of paramedics working for the fire department
- Number of dispatchers assigned to fire/EMS
- Total number of 911 calls
- Number of medic calls per shift
- Protocol for determining ALS response
- EMT base pay
- Paramedic base pay
- Dispatch errors
For my fire chief and 911 director friends out there, could any of you run your agency properly and provide excellent service to the citizens you serve without having this data available?
Of course you couldn’t. But lawyers for the City of Baltimore have told a Baltimore Sun reporter who filed a Public Information Act request this information just isn’t available.
You can’t have it both ways Baltimore City. You can’t publicly state you don’t have this information and also have anyone think you’re competently running these agencies.
If this information really doesn’t exist, Baltimore needs to clean house of its emergency services leadership. But we know that at least 90 percent of this data is probably instantly available and someone for the city is just lying to reporter Yvonne Wenger. It’s a really stupid lie because it makes the fire chief and person running 911 look bad.
Someone needs to straighten this out quickly.
City lawyers refused to release information about the Baltimore Fire Department’s response times, dispatch errors and paramedic staffing rates.
Benjamin A. Bor, a special assistant solicitor in the city’s Law Department, told The Baltimore Sun this month that the city was denying two Public Information Act requests from the newspaper on grounds that the agency did not have the documents to provide.
Damon Effingham, legal and policy director for Common Cause Maryland, said he was surprised city lawyers said the Fire Department did not have some of the records The Sun requested, such as a breakdown of the percentage of 911 calls made for fire suppression and medical service. Releasing such information helps essential city services function better, he said.
The Sun also requested information for each of the last three years on how many hours of overtime did dispatchers and paramedics claim; how many dispatchers and paramedics work for the Fire Department; how many 911 calls did dispatchers answer; how many calls did medic units respond to in an average shift; what was the policy governing when dispatchers send an advanced or basic medic unit; and how much was the base pay for an EMT and paramedic.