Ottawa County's top EMS official told Target 8 that dispatchers call crews based on jurisdictional boundaries, with a couple exceptions.
Rich Szczepanek, EMS Systems Administrator for the Ottawa County Medical Control Board Authority, said Grand Haven, Grand Haven Township and Ferrysburg have "automatic aid" agreements, meaning the closest rescue crews respond to medical calls regardless of boundaries.
That is not the case for the rest of the county.
"In a perfect world, the closest available appropriate resource would be sent. But alas, we don't live in a perfect world just yet," Szczepanek told Target 8.
Szczepanek said dispatchers call crews based on boundaries. If those rescuers are tied up, it is their responsibility to ask for another department to respond.
The head of Kalamazoo County's emergency management system acknowledged that the county's situation is "not optimal at all."
"There's not a quick answer to this," said Dr. William Fales, Kalamazoo County EMS Medical Director. "The bottom line is the system is not in place to assure that we have the closest emergency responder unit sent to medical calls."
While most of the county's fire departments have "automatic aid" agreements that allow the closest firefighters to respond to a fire, it is not the "norm" for medical calls.
Despite the lack of automatic aid agreements among medical first responders, Fales said their response times are "excellent" and "unbelievably good."
Still, Fales is pushing to centralize Kalamazoo County's dispatch system, which he believes would go a long way in getting to a point where dispatchers can call out rescue crews based on proximity to the medical emergency.
"It's unfortunately not a simple issue for a variety of reasons, one of which is that Kalamazoo County continues to have five separate 911 centers," said Fales.
"With technology and GPS, there are a lot of exciting things going on. It's the next wave, knowing where every vehicle is."
Montcalm County has a unique medical responder system because all of its ambulances and rescue trucks are county-owned and operated. Therefore, there are no jurisdictional boundaries to consider when deciding which crew to dispatch to a medical call.
"In theory, it's supposed to be the closest (crew that responds)," said Eric Smith, Deputy Director of Montcalm County Emergency Services.
Smith told Target 8 that Montcalm County rescue crews and ambulances are staged and scattered throughout the county, all of which are county-owned and operated.
Muskegon County has one central dispatch center, meaning all of the 911 calls go to once location.
"Because they have one central call point, (dispatchers) already have in their programming to say, 'This person is closer, so call this department for mutual aid,'" said Jerry Evans, medical director for the Muskegon County Medical Control Authority.
While dispatchers would initially call out fire and medical responders based on jurisdictional boundaries, Evans told Target 8 that "mutual aid is used frequently."
"We're very careful. We work extremely well together. The fire chiefs meet every month," said Evans.
When dispatching medical calls, Ionia County calls crews based on jurisdictional coverage areas.
However, the county has recently carved out an exception regarding personal injury accidents that happen on roadways that cross two or three fire department and medical responder jurisdictions.
"The departments have verbally agreed to allow the closest crew to be called rather than have a dispatcher try to drill down or query the caller on which side of a centerline the impact occurred and where the crash or victims actually came to rest," explained Jim Valentine, director of Ionia County Central Dispatch.
Van Buren County
In this rural county, first responders and paramedics are dispatched based on jurisdictional boundaries. However, there is cooperation among ambulance companies. One EMS official told Target 8 that if an ambulance crew is closer to an emergency, they'll call dispatch and offer to respond, ignoring jurisdictional lines.
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