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Texas Fire Department Frustrated Over Faster EMS Alerts

In the 18 months he has shared a station with paramedics, Austin fire Capt. Les McKay has watched them frequently speed away to emergencies sometimes several seconds before he and his crew are alerted to a fire.

The time lapse has frustrated him.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” said McKay, who works at a station near U.S. 183 and Burnet Road in North Austin.

“Obviously, it is not ideal for the citizens or firefighters,” he said.

Whether the blame rests with technology or dispatching methods, Austin emergency responders say the reality is that for years paramedics have been alerted to reported fires ahead of firefighters an issue that has recently triggered renewed concern.

They say that the time can range from several seconds to a minute and that in some cases, paramedics in shared stations have gone over to firefighters’ quarters to tell them about calls before they are officially notified.

Neither the Fire Department nor Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services has documents showing the frequency with which paramedics are alerted before firefighters or by how much time.

However, all said they have been made aware of the issue by firefighters and paramedics who work jointly in 18 stations citywide.

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