Is fire, ambulance consolidation right for city and township?

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By Micayla Cummings

Lansing Township and Lansing have discussed the pros and cons of consolidating their fire and ambulance services, but have not yet taken action due to the issue’s complexity.

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A recent study, supported by the Michigan Municipal League and the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, looked at all of the fire departments in the region and collected data validating the observations they gathered when looking at financial operational response time.

According to the Lansing Township Fire Department call history, ambulance responses more than tripled the amount of fire calls between 2010 and 2012. This data found from the study serves as a financial model that shows why consolidation may be needed and brings all of the services together.

“You can’t do consolidation overnight,” said Trent Atkins, assistant fire chief for Lansing. “Consolidation takes time.”

The study reported that data is difficult to collect on consolidation and that it is important to phase it in over time. He said that it could be beneficial for both if the issue wasn’t so sensitive.  “We’re still probably three to five years out from having any type of significant consolidation of any form,” Atkins said.

Lansing and Lansing Township share hazard materials and rescue response, which allows both cities to respond to safety calls if needed. Lansing is working on obtaining an automatic aid agreement with surrounding cities and townships, but is still in the process of trying. Mutual aid, which is what they have now, requires a department to request help before it is sent.

“I don’t think anybody has actually showed what the benefits would be,” said Susan Aten, Lansing Township clerk. “We do have mutual aid and we do work together that way, but we have so many different issues right now.”

There are roughly 8,400 residents living in Lansing Township who are happy with  their own fire and ambulance service, Aten said.  There is a connectivity residents have to their community when they know their service personnel.

“Nobody’s come up with anything that makes me think that it’s need,” she said. “I don’t see any better service that what we provide.”

The Lansing Township ambulance service has been around since the late 90s and shares many of its services with the fire department.

“All of our people are crossed trained, all of our people are fire-firefighters and paramedics,” Aten said. “I think we have one or two that are not paramedics, but they are EMS trained.”

By allowing consolidation, each community has more access to equipment and more workers to fight fires and respond to emergency calls, Atkins said. Cons regarding this issue will include possible layoffs due to over hiring and problems regarding the delegation of authority.

“When you do collaborative efforts then you really only need one person to do that or maybe two,” said Richard Curry, Lansing Township fire chief.  “You need fewer resources when you can combine or synergize on that.”

Video report:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sv1z-xJYYok

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