COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Springs Fire Department looks to make a pilot program focused on improving emergency response a staple for years to come.
In Nov. 2018, CSFD launched its community medicine, or CMED, program for a 10-month test period along the Nevada Avenue corridor. The plan was simple — dispatch a two-person squad of paramedics to low-level medical calls utilizing an ambulance between Stations 1 and 4. Station 1 is the department's busiest station.
Paramedic Lindsey Pastore was one of the paramedics assigned to the unit.
"It is our goal to work within the 911 system to find different alternatives, basically finding the right resource for the right person," Pastore told News 5 in Nov. 2018.
The program ended up being quite successful, according to the department.
Lt. Andrew Cooper, who works within CSFD's Community and Public Health Division, said the squad answered 800 calls over the 10 months just outside the city's busiest fire station.
"We were able to turn a lot of heavy apparatus back into service...," Cooper said.
Having the squad respond to the minor medical calls allowed the department to keep its bigger engines and trucks in-house for more serious calls. After all, those apparatus are better suited for traffic accidents and structure fires.
Cooper told News 5 that when CMED responded to a call, the engines and trucks were able to respond to a more appropriate call, during the same time, 21 percent of the time.
It served a benefit for a number of reasons, like keeping miles off a fleet that's already dealing with age and mileage issues.
"We're not doing fuel services. We're able to take four people and apply them in a more appropriate manner, so that saves money to the city, to the fire department, and it's a better service to the citizens," Cooper said.
CSFD wants to implement the project permanently, but the question now is how they'll fund it.
Remember, back in September, the department tightened its belt to make up for a budget shortfall around $1 million. They limited exterior training opportunities, returned certain officers to the line and temporarily suspended a squad before reinstating it.
It's also unclear just how much money this program will cost. The pilot was funded with the help of community partners.
Additionally, CSFD has not determined an exact plan for how they'd like to permanently adopt CMED. Cooper said they may look to change from an ambulance to a smaller SUV and could look to expand its use to other high-call volume areas.