After battling the Detroit Fire Fighter’s Association Local 344 for nearly three years, the city is surrendering. Mayor Dennis Archer, who had pushed for firefighters to become the city’s first responders to medical emergencies, agreed to take the plan off the bargaining table last week, says Greg Bowens, Archer’s press secretary.
“The Fire Fighter’s union made a clear and compelling case that they couldn’t handle it,” explains Bowens. “No one’s more disappointed than we are.”
Under the plan, firefighters would have been the first to respond to emergency medical calls, a duty solely done by the Emergency Medical Services Department. EMS handles about 125,000 emergency calls a year with 29 ambulances. As a result, response time — which experts say should be about nine minutes —is currently about 12 minutes.The city hoped to increase response times by having firefighters provide initial response to medical emergencies. That’s the way things work in many cities across the state and country, says Bowens.
In an interview with the Metro Times last year, DFFA Local 344 President John King said firefighters here were not convinced the plan would reduce EMS’s response time because paramedics would still be required to respond to each call. The only way to reduce EMS’s response time is to get more ambulances, said King.
That may occur.
“What will happen is we’ll put more resources into EMS,” says Bowens.
Contract talks may wrap up this summer.Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]