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20110701_MissionFireDepartmentMISSION — The Mission Fire Department is moving in a new direction. Mission Fire Chief Ricardo Saldaña secured approval from the city council Monday for the department to become a registered first responder with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

According to Saldaña, although the fire department is already responding to about half the medical emergency calls coming in to the city 9-1-1 call center, they will now respond to almost every medical emergency call. The fire department will not be replacing the ambulance services presently being provided by Med-Care, the city’s EMS provider. The department’s role will be to respond to the emergency calls and provide treatment to the patient until the EMS provider arrives.

“We’re not going to get into the ambulance business,” Saldaña said. “We’re not going to take it away from our current EMS provider. The mayor has already told us.”

He explained that the primary reason for the change is to provide faster response times and better service to the community. With the growth of the city, both in population and in square miles as new areas are annexed each year, the fire department can often respond faster to calls than the ambulance provider, depending on where the ambulance is posted. The department has five stations strategically located across the city for fast responses, whereas the EMS provider has only two ambulances in Mission at any given time and their locations can vary, depending on calls. The city currently experiences an average of 14 ambulance calls per day – and even more in the winter months.

No new personnel will be required for the transition, Saldaña said. The fire department already has 28 personnel certified as emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Saldaña wants to eventually have all his personnel certified at the EMT level or better, in addition to being certified fire fighters.

Additional equipment funding will not be necessary for purchasing any ambulances; the fire fighters will respond using fire trucks and will not transport any patients.

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