Response delay prompts change to radio system
Feb. 19, 2014 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Members of the Plymouth and Northville Fire Advisory Board met last week in a regular bi-monthly session to discuss fire department business.
This was the first meeting of the members since a radio communications problem last November delayed response to a 911 call for more than 25 minutes in the City of Plymouth. The 60-year-old woman suffering a heart attack subsequently died after repeated calls from police officers at the scene for more help were not immediately answered.
Discussion at the meeting did not directly address the subsequent delay and requests for more help, but did reference the arrival of two police officers and the HVA staff, which occurred six minutes after the radio dispatch, according to taped recordings of the incident. The police officers on scene were not-paramedics or cross-trained firefighters.
Official minutes and agenda notes from the meeting stated: “The event was when the fire “tones’ to activate the Plymouth Station were not broadcast over the radio resulting in a delayed response of the Fire Department.” (Item #10-Review of response times-PLYMOUTH STATION ONLY)”
Plymouth City Manager Paul Sincock said previously that there would be an investigation of the medical run. He said, after the incident, that he was concerned, but not “overly concerned” about the situation.
“It’s not a matter that they didn’t respond, but that they responded in a timely fashion when they were notified to respond,” Sincock said at the time.
At the meeting, Sincock read aloud a prepared report to the nine attendees and five on-call firefighters in attendance.
“…the City of Plymouth has a three-tiered level of response to medical emergencies in Plymouth. That includes police officers, paramedics and fire fighters.”
According to the recordings of the emergency call obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, first to arrive on the scene were two City of Plymouth police cruisers and the responding officers immediately began CPR in an attempt to save the woman, apparently in serious cardiac arrest.
“A review of the run shows that the paramedics from HVA were on scene in less than three minutes, along with two medically trained police officers. This incident indicated that the integration of responses still was able to provide a timely response to a medical incident, despite the fact there was a communication failure,” the official report states.
Normal operating procedures would have required the Northville on-call firefighters assigned to the downtown Plymouth station to respond to the emergency tone with the city-owned ambulance from the garage at Main and Church streets to the home of the caller, a distance of about a half mile.
After 18 minutes with only two paramedics and two police officers at the scene, there had still been no response from the Northville on-call staff, or the Plymouth city ambulance, according to the 911 recordings, despite repeated requests for more help from the EMTs and officers.
Neither Sincock or Chairman of the Fire Advisory Board City Commissioner Ed Hingelberg addressed the technicalities of the radio-dispatch problem at the meeting.
“This integration of response was designed and provides for a timely response to medical runs even if one element of the response team is delayed…” the report stated. “As a result of this event and as part of the on-going continuous improvement efforts, some procedures regarding fire “tones” on the Radio for Plymouth have been changed. This has resulted increased reliability of the radio system.”
Reports show that City of Northville responders finally arrived in the Plymouth ambulance at the scene at 2:01 a.m., 25 minutes after the initial 911 call to find that the woman had expired.
“There are some in this room who might put a spin on this (information) and twist it any way they wish,” Hingelberg said.
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