Pinellas County, Florida -- Pinellas County residents may see a change to emergency services if commissioners approve a new phase of emergency response procedures.
At a Dec. 6 work session, county commissioners agreed to put a resolution dealing with Phase 3 of 911 dispatch priority on a meeting agenda in January.
The proposed change to the county's 911 dispatch policy, also known as Phase 3, means fire departments will no longer be notified or respond to certain calls. Instead, only a Sunstar Ambulance will be sent, which the department says 90 percent of the time takes up to 10 extra minutes to respond than a fire truck would.
It would also eliminate the use of first responders for minor falls, sick person calls and other "no priority symptoms" which include blood pressure abnormalities, dizziness, fever, insomnia, constipation, ring cut-off requests, deafness, hemorrhoids, hiccups, itching, stuck objects, swallowed objects, rashes, toothaches and infected wounds.
Palm Harbor Fire takes issue with this new policy saying a lot of the time the nature and severity of problems reported are not accurately known at the time of the initial call.
The department adds that firefighters and paramedics are paid the same regardless of how many calls they respond to, so the taxpayers are not going to save any money if Phase 3 is implemented.
"This is not cost savings. This is a reduction in service to our citizens," says Fire Chief James Angle. "Our top priority is safety, phase 3 of priority dispatch means that if Mrs. Smith who lives across the street from the fire station falls and calls 911 for help, "a not dangerous injury", would lay on the floor for up to 15 minutes before an ambulance arrives. The fire department would not be notified of her emergency."
SEE ALSO: Pinellas County EMS Outreach Briefing
Palm Harbor Fire is not the only fire department that opposes the resolution. TBN Weekly reported the day after the work session took place, the cities Bellair Bluffs, Dunedin, Pinellas Park, Safety Harbor, St. Petersburg, South Pasadena -- as well as fire districts in East Lake, Lealman, and Pinellas Suncoast opposed the measure.
Commissioners have already implemented two other measures on priority dispatch over the past 3 years.
Phase 1 passed in April 2009 that consolidated 911 functions into one call center. Phase 2 was put into practice in December 2010 and reduced ambulance responses by about 5.6 percent a year.
Pinellas County Commissioners will meet on Jan. 15 and as of now it is not known what their agenda will consist of. The agenda is scheduled to be posted to the public on Jan. 11.
In the meantime, Palm Harbor Fire is encouraging residents to contact commissioners before they vote to give them your feedback on this proposal.
You can attend the meeting at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 5th floor, located at 315 Court Street in Clearwater, when they plan to vote on the proposal. You can email you comments online at http://www.pinellascounty.org/forms/a_bcc_form.htm, or call County Commissioners at 727-464-3377.