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Controversial five-minute rule may become new policy

MUNDY TOWNSHIP, Michigan - The township fire department likely will find itself subject to a policy that prohibits it from responding to medical calls if an ambulance service can do it faster.

The so-called "five-minute rule," proposed by Township Treasurer David Guigear, calls for firefighters to respond to medical calls only when it will take an ambulance or paramedic more than five minutes to respond. It faced strong opposition from residents, firefighters and Fire Chief Toney Romans.

"I am not in favor of the suggested five-minute rule," Romans said.

At a fire commission meeting immediately preceding Monday's Township Board meeting, Romans said he will enforce what the board decides.

Several residents said the township fire department responded faster than an ambulance when they called 911.

"They saved my mother's life," Mike Taylor said.

Many municipal fire departments don't respond to medical calls at all. The ones that do are in such rural areas as Atlas or Argentine Township.

"This isn't meant to take those calls away from you," Guigear said, addressing fire department personnel. "If we can save money in this way it will serve the community well."

When a call goes out to the volunteer fire department, there is no limit to the number of firefighters who respond. Add response by an ambulance or Genesee County paramedics and there can be 10 to 20 people on scene for a medical call.

"Our average response numbers were about nine people per medical," Romans said.

Township firefighters are paid $13.77 per hour when they respond.

Trustee Tonya Ketzler said the issue goes beyond fiscal savings to questions about liability.

"Living on Hill Road and watching three emergency vehicles running to the same spot, I'm shocked and amazed we don't have more accidents," she said.

Romans said in the last 19 months there has been one accident involving emergency personnel, which was caused by a motorist who failed to stay 500 feet behind the vehicle.

Board members said they have asked Romans to find a way to reduce the number of firefighters responding to these calls.

"All I was ever looking for was some other way to approach this as opposed to turning out the entire fire department every time," Guigear said.

The board voted to form a committee to determine the protocol the township would provide to 911.

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