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Making the Most of Our Available Resources:
Why Fire Engines and Firefighters Respond to Medical Calls


The Lakeland Fire Department responded to over 26,000 calls for service in 2020, of which 81% were related to medical emergencies.

Often, Lakeland’s fire engines are dispatched to medical emergency calls and a common question for the department from citizens is:

 “Why did they send a fire engine to a medical call? Shouldn’t an ambulance have been sent instead?”

For those unfamiliar with emergency response, fire suppression needs, and how different public safety agencies work together, this could be a perplexing issue.

In response to those concerns, the Lakeland Fire Department has produced a brief educational video production to create better awareness and understating of why LFD, like many other fire departments across the nation, sends a fire engine to a medical call and the circumstances that lead to that.  

There are several reasons:

LFD’s Rescue Trucks, manned by two crew members, are often sent out first; particularly to medical emergency calls. However, when those units are out of service providing help to others, fire engines and their crews are sent to provide help to other emergency calls. This allows help to arrive sooner, as sending another unit, even if it is another rescue truck, can take longer because it is coming from a further distance outside its zone.

Fire engines are manned by at least three-person crews, but often four crew members when staffing needs are met. All LFD Firefighters are also Emergency Medical Technicians or Paramedics. This means there will be more highly skilled help on scene, faster.

When a 911 call comes in, dispatchers are not often given precise or complete information. As such, units are dispatched on a worst-case scenario. To ensure the highest level of care, LFD sends the closest fire engine when a two-man rescue truck is not available.

No medical call is “routine.” Most require assessing the patient, obtaining their vital signs, providing oxygen therapy, and moving them, at a minimum. Crews may also need to place an advanced airway, administer medication intravenously, or monitor cardiac conditions. All of these procedures are completed more efficiently when the appropriate amount of help is on scene. Efficient and effective care is our goal, and that level of care is often the difference between life and death.

The Lakeland Fire Department does not provide medical transport, as an Advanced Life Support Non-Transport Fire Department. By sending a fire engine, medical help can get there much sooner versus waiting for the nearest ambulance. Ambulances are often busy throughout the county and unable to arrive as quickly as LFD’s responders can, as LFD’s apparatus are strategically located throughout the City of Lakeland out of seven nearby fire stations. When emergencies happen, LFD crews can begin lifesaving care and prepare patients for transport when needed, so that when an ambulance does arrive, the patient is ready to be transported to the nearest hospital.

Fire Engines are needed regardless if there is a medical emergency or not, for fire suppression. Rescue trucks alone cannot effectively fight fire. So by manning fire engines with trained emergency medical responders and equipping them with lifesaving equipment, the department is making the best use of its available resources.

The Lakeland Fire Department is always there for your when you need us most.