Edison to address dispatch of fire department

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EDISON — The Township Council’s Public Safety Committee will address concerns by fire officials on dispatch protocol of the fire department to emergency medical calls.

Jim Walsh, second vice president of the Edison Fire Fighters Association, addressed the council at the two meetings in October on his concerns of the inconsistency of sending the fire department to the medical calls.

“We may be sent to a heart attack [call], but [an incident around the corner] from the firehouse, we are not sent,” he said.

Walsh highlighted two recent Emergency Medical Services (EMS) incidences in which fire apparatuses were not dispatched.

He said a motor vehicle accident occurred on Woodbridge Avenue near Old Post Road at 4:17 a.m. on Oct. 7. A car took out both traffic lights. One of the victims was on the ground and another victim was in the car bleeding.

“No fire department was sent to that call,” he said. “Just the way the incident sounded, there should have been a fire department response.”

In another incident, there was an EMS call for a 6-year-old child possibly suffering from an allergic reaction on the front lawn of a house at 2:29 p.m. on Sept. 22, which Walsh said was directly across the street from Fire Station 3 on Amboy Avenue.

“There was no fire department that was dispatched, but members of Engine 1 saw the incident on the station’s CAD (computer aided dispatch) computer, grabbed the first aid kit and walked across the street to see if they could render aid,” Walsh said adding that the fire official was at the scene before police and mutual aid from Woodbridge Township arrived.

Walsh noted that Mayor George Spadoro’s administration in the 1990s made it a priority to send police, fire and EMS to incidents to provide complete coverage to residents after a bicycle rider died in front of him during the mayor’s bicycle ride tour of Edison.

“No Fire Department personnel was sent to that incident even though it occurred blocks away from the fire station,” he said, which prompted Spadoro to amend dispatch protocols at the time.

Walsh said the emergency response protocol states that closest fire apparatus  are to be dispatched to EMS calls.

Police Captain Joseph Shannon said public safety is the first and foremost priority when talking about dispatch.

He said he did speak with the police department’s communication supervisors about the concerns raised by fire officials.

“Whenever there is a medical call, a police officer is dispatched to that call,” Shannon said. “Our personnel within communications are supposed to look at where the call is and if there is a fire apparatus nearby that is also a possibility for dispatch.”

Shannon said the deferred protocol for a medical emergency is a police officer, who would be detailed to the scene. Then the call would be handed off to JFK Medical Center, which has provided 911 Emergency Medical Services for the township since 2013, for a dispatch.

“There’s not a consistent dispatch when fire is or isn’t being dispatched,” he said. “It’s at the purview of whose in that communication room at the time and the proximity [of the fire department] to the call factors into those decisions.”

Shannon said dispatch is very technical.

“Everyone is certified as far as 911, [and] EMS certifications go,” he said. “Everyone is competent [within the communications department] and everyone follows protocols laid out as per with medical dispatch.”

Councilman Joe Coyle, who is a member of the Public Safety Committee, said he visited JFK dispatch and spoke to the supervisor in charge.

“We will sit down with the Public Safety Committee and see where we can improve,” he said.