The federal General Services Administration issued a request for proposals May 24, on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, seeking a national contractor (or contractors) to provide ambulance, air ambulance and paratransit services after a nationally declared disaster in the Gulf and Atlantic coastal regions of the United States. (FEMA intends to issue RFPs for the rest of the United States later.)
The contractor(s) winning the bid (which is for one year, with four one-year option periods) must agree to provide to each zone at least 100 fully staffed ground ambulances, 25 air ambulances and paratransit vehicles, with a total capability of moving 3,000 individuals. Those resources must be deployed within six hours and arrive at the disaster site within 24 hours. Bids were due June 22.
Fire service leaders and the National Association of State EMS Officials had expressed concerns about this plan and thought they had dissuaded federal officials from proceeding after a meeting in late April. They were surprised to learn about the RFP several weeks later. (See ˙EMS Leaders Weigh in on Feds_ Plan for National Ambulance Deployment During Disasters,Ó June EMS Insider.)
˙We thought the kibosh had been put to this,Ó said NASEMSO President Fergus Laughridge, Nevada_s EMS director. ˙But I can understand [that FEMA] is under pressure and needs to have a plan.Ó He noted that FEMA officials and other federal representatives had agreed to meet with EMS leaders June 20 to discuss EMS disaster deployment issues.
˙We hadn_t heard about the release of the RFP,Ó said Chief John Sinclair, Kittitas (Wash.) Fire & Rescue, immediate past chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs EMS Section and section representative on the IAFC board. ˙Our hope was that we wouldn_t build multiple systems for disaster response. We already have [a national] resource-
ordering system in place and being used, and it was our hope that [FEMA] would use this system. But I_m sure [the feds] had a good reason for doing this.Ó (The federal National Interagency Resource Ordering and Status System, or ROSS, is a software program that automates resource ordering, status updates and reporting processes for wildfire locations.)
˙The fire service has the largest supply of EMS transport vehicles in the United States and a network able to respond anywhere in the contiguous United States. This is duplicative and disappointing that they wouldn_t look at our system, a system that is already in place,Ó said Deputy Chief Gary Ludwig, chair of the IAFC EMS Section.
Laughridge said he_s working with Nevada fire chiefs to integrate ambulance resources into the Nevada ROSS system in hopes it would become a national model.
However, the RFP does not even mention ROSS, although it does reference resource databases compiled by both the American Ambulance Association and the Association of Air Medical Services, according to Kurt Krumperman, Rural/
Metro_s senior vice president for government affairs and the AAA point person on preparedness.
He notes that the new RFP does contain ˙stronger languageÓ to ensure the protection of Emergency Medical Assistance Compact resources than was contained in the FEMA RFP issued in mid-2006 to provide ambulance and paratransit resources to the Gulf Coast region during the remainder of 2006. (American Medical Response and Acadian Ambulance, Louisiana_s largest provider, won that contract, which has since expired.)
The new RFP stipulates that the contractor(s) may not use ambulance services from within the state(s) affected by a disaster and ˙should refrain from subcontracting with ambulance service providers that are committed under [EMAC] agreements since it is anticipated these ambulances will be contracted for and deployed by the state(s) in which the disaster is occurring through EMAC.Ó In a June 6 document answering questions from potential contractors, FEMA confirmed that position, saying, ˙Bear in mind that FEMA supports state mutual aid agreements and will not undermine them or EMAC.Ó
Krumperman also noted that the RFP calls for fewer resources to each zone; the 2006 contract required AMR and Acadian to provide at least 300 ground ambulances to the Gulf Coast region if necessary. ˙I assume that is because they intend to rely on EMAC,Ó he said. (Neither Rural/Metro nor the AAA will bid on the contracts.)
˙AAA and the fire chiefs have the same position about EMAC and interstate mutual aid,Ó he said. ˙You can_t have everyone tapping into the same resources, and hospitals and nursing homes that may need evacuation are also tapping into those resources.
˙The focus should be on making sure we continue to work on standing up EMAC and making sure it_s as good as it can be. We also want to make sure all AAA members and other nongovernmental ambulance services can participate in EMAC,Ó Krumperman said. Many states currently restrict EMAC participation to public-sector EMS providers.
Federal officials declined to be interviewed, saying they would talk about the RFP only after awarding the contract(s).