Following an amended agreement between South County Fire and the City of Edmonds to address the city’s fire and emergency service imbalance, a new 24-hour emergency medical services (EMS) unit staffed by two firefighters went in service Tuesday morning at Fire Station 20 in unincorporated Esperance.
Edmonds contracts with South County Fire to provide fire and EMS response. Most South County Fire responses in the city are EMS – 86% in 2021. All South County Fire firefighters are either emergency medical technicians or paramedics.
The new unit –which is costing the city an additional $1.5 million annually — is meant to address the neighboring unit utilization factor (NUUF), which is included in the city’s contract with South County Fire to provide fire and EMS services. It measures the amount of time that Edmonds units respond to calls for service outside of Edmonds and then compares that to the amount of time that non-Edmonds units respond to calls for service in Edmonds.
Under the contract, balance is achieved when those two amounts of time are within 10% of one another. However, South County Fire data shows that the neighboring cities are responding into Edmonds significantly more often than Edmonds units are responding into neighboring cities like Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. For example, the NUUF from Mountlake Terrace into Edmonds is 157% and Lynnwood into Edmonds is 252%. Those numbers would have to be at 110% to be considered in balance, and being out of balance triggers a reopening of the contract and brings the parties back to the bargaining table.
In discussing the issue last year, City Attorney Jeff Taraday told the ocuncil that South County Fire will be monitoring the NUFF numbers for a year, to see if the new unit addresses the imbalance.
“Having one more ambulance and additional EMT firefighters assigned to our city will improve emergency response times and help keep our residents safe,” Mayor Mike Nelson said in joint press release issued by the city and South County Fire Tuesday. “We appreciate our partnership with South County Fire and the services their dedicated crews provide to our community.”
The new EMS unit is based at Fire Station 20 because “this area has the highest call demand in the city,” said South County Fire Chief Thad Hovis. “The impact extends to neighboring stations too. It’s like a ripple effect.
“Adding an EMS unit at our busiest Edmonds station will help keep other crews in service for 911 calls in their stations areas,” Hovis added.
The addition of two firefighters to staff the new EMS unit increases daily staffing in Edmonds from nine to 11 firefighters.
“The entire city will benefit from having the added personnel and one more emergency response unit available, especially for labor-intensive emergency responses such as fires and cardiac arrest, which require a multi-station response,” Hovis said.