Wisconsin Fire Chief Warns of Rising EMS Calls with Senior Housing

Senior housing project loses luster after city council mulls budget impact of increased EMS calls


 
 

Scottie Lee Meyers, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | | Friday, July 26, 2013


FRANKLIN, Wis — After listening to Fire Chief Adam Remington's annual department report, city officials said they're more cognizant of the potential strains on emergency services that some development projects pose to Franklin. Remington, who was named chief July1, told council members and city staff earlier this month that senior-housing complexes already pose a significant draw on Fire Department resources. He said each bed in such a facility roughly equates to about one Emergency Medical Service call per year.

Last year, the department received 2,688 EMS service calls and 484 calls for fire suppression services, citywide.

"I think the misconception is that most people think we have guys sitting on engines all day that they never see. But they're primarily in ambulances," Remington said.

All 42 firefighters throughout the department's three fire stations are trained and certified in both fire suppression and EMS — the vast majority of them are paramedics, the highest level of emergency medical provider staffed by fire departments — to allow for maximum flexibility in responding to a wide range of emergency types.

Remington said that although there has been a 28 percent increase in call volume over the past decade, his department is handling service calls as well as it ever has.

However, future budget constraints from the city and the county could jeopardize that. The realities have led five southern Milwaukee communities to look at consolidating services.

The report has made an impression on aldermen. Earlier this month, Common Council members were less than enthusiastic about conceptual plans for a new senior-housing complex, citing the Fire Department's annual report and pointing out that such facilities could burden emergency services.

Mayor Tom Taylor said although a study has shown that senior housing actually brings in revenue to the city, he's mindful of the increased service costs that are typically seen with these types of developments.

"It's certainly a part of my thinking when people come in and talk about projects. We already have one of the largest senior populations in Milwaukee County," Taylor said.

Franklin's future development is guided by its Comprehensive Master Plan.

Planning Manager Joel Dietl said the plan doesn't directly address service strains, but it does outline the city's strategy to achieve 30 percent non-residential development — business parks, office spaces and shopping centers — to generate a large enough tax base to pay for services.

The chief's report will be revisited in committee meetings in the near future.



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