A new emergency medical services report suggests Kalispell needs more firefighters and EMTs to meet the demands of a growing community.
The EMS and Fire Services Analysis by the Center for Public Safety Management, LLC, a Washington D.C.-based consulting firm, was presented to the Kalispell City Council on July 23 during a work session.
The report was the result of months of work by the consulting firm, including two days in January when project staff observed operations and interviewed key city staff members. From that, the consultants were able to make a number of recommendations.
The city solicited the report so the council can make informed decisions about the department in the future.
One of the biggest challenges highlighted by the report besides the growing population is the number of people 65 and older who require additional medical attention. Fifteen percent of the city population is in that age bracket and more than half of all the tourists and visitors who come to Kalispell are retirement age.
The report also recommends that the Kalispell Fire Department make an effort to complete “prefire” plans for at-risk buildings in the community, including medical facilities, nursing homes, high-rise buildings and other apartments or group living facilities. The report states that a prefire plan allows firefighters to be prepared should there ever be a fire at a high-risk building. Prefire plans often include information about the type of occupancy, floor plans, building construction and features, fire protection systems, utility locations, and plans for forcible entries or ventilation efforts.
Currently, the Kalispell Fire Department usually has six or seven people working at a time during three different shifts. The report said the community would be best served by having at least seven or eight staff per shift, although that would require additional funding.
Fire Chief Dave Dedman said nothing in the report surprised him but that it was good to have an outside group confirm what he and his team already knew. He also said that Kalispell is not alone in its challenges.
“These are not local issues, these are national issues,” he said.
City Manager Doug Russell said the city council and staff would review the report and would reference it during future budget discussions regarding emergency services.
“These are incredibly important services,” Russell said. “This report will help us figure out how we will maintain those services in the long term.”
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