Dubuque Fire Department asking for additional resources as it responds to substantial rise in calls

The Dubuque Fire Department is asking city officials for more resources to expand personnel and the ambulance fleet.
Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 5:30 AM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - The Dubuque Fire Department is asking city officials for more resources to expand personnel and the ambulance fleet as it deals with a consistent increase in emergency medical services (EMS) and fire calls.

Call volume for both EMS and fire calls was up across the board last year, according to Dubuque fire chief Rick Steines. In 2021, they responded to 7,900 calls, which was up from 6,535 in 2020.

”We were kind of thinking for a while there that we just had a surge,” he added. “Statistically, we would see calls slow down a little bit November through December, and we did not see that this year.”

For that reason, the department is now looking into the future and, expecting that rise in calls to continue, Chief Steines said they are asking city leaders for more resources, which includes expanding the ambulance fleet, for the fiscal year 2023 budget.

”We have always kept an ambulance as a reserve for mechanical issues and things like that and now that we are starting to need that ambulance out on the streets we would need to increase the fleet to provide reserve units,” he explained.

The second part of the equation is adding more personnel to the department to staff a third ambulance full-time. Currently, the department only has two ambulances staffed full-time.

“We feel that because of the large segment of our calls being EMS and the simultaneous EMS calls we need a third ambulance that is staffed all the time rather than taking another company out of service to provide a little bit better coverage and for that we need additional personnel,” Steines said.

Steines said responding to a higher volume of calls in 2021 meant other tasks had to wait. He mentioned they had to sacrifice inspections, flushing fire hydrants, and trainings because staff were constantly going out the door.

”The bulk of some of the training, especially classroom, is done in service, so if there is a call they leave for that call and come back,” he explained. “Sometimes we have to reschedule some of that training.”

A trend they started to notice in 2021 was more EMS calls coming in simultaneously, which Steines said complicates the responders’ work.

“Just last week we had three EMS calls go out within four minutes, so that is hard to cover because, if they are on the same end of town, obviously we need to have a crew from the other side of town go into that area and cover because the typical company that would respond is already on a call,” he commented.

The department has also been dealing with staffing shortages. Chief Steines said last year there was a significant need for overtime. He said the department was fully staffed by July 1, but now has three openings plus others unable to come to work.

”Which for us equates to essentially one person per shift, and then we have some people on injury leave and then a few typically will be out with COVID quarantine,” he added.

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