DATA IS A CORE to good policy for cities. We see it again and again from the simplest to the most complex.
When cities want to make road changes, they measure traffic counts and numbers of accidents.
When COVID-19 marched through our communities, communities across the country measured the virus in wastewater.
Data helps cities and others make better decisions. If there is no data, it is more difficult to make changes, and improve practices.
Here in Kamloops, the City of Kamloops spends over $20 million a year or 12% of the total City budget on direct fire service costs. On a typical homeowner’s tax bill, fire services is second only to policing costs. An average homeowner pays about $250 per year for fire protection.
While people may think of Kamloops Fire and Rescue (KFR) as primarily a fire service, it also provides first responder services to medical calls.
In 2020, KFR responded to a total of 5,063 calls. Of these, 2,440 were medical calls. This is down from 2019 when KFR had 6,613 calls of which 4,157 were medical. In 2018, there were 6,875 total calls, and 4,527 medical. The decrease in medical calls in 2020 was due to the change of KFR responding only to the most critical medical events due to COVID-19 protocols, so it is reasonable to assume medical calls will be increasing again.
Regardless of the numbers, year after year, there is minimal reporting on the types of medical calls KFR responds to. Not in the City’s annual reports, and not in the reports submitted by the KFR to the City’s Community Services Committee.
KFR and the City of Kamloops are not collecting data on the types of medical calls that KFR responds to. The calls might be for drug overdoses, accidental falls, or assaults. Calls may be for mental health issues, or strokes. The medical calls might be in private homes, assisted living residents or public venues. The people requiring help might be children, youth, adults, or seniors.
But we don’t know because there is no reporting by KFR. The only reporting is the number of times Naloxone and AEDs are administrated (57 and 45 respectively in 2020).
Maybe it isn’t seen as the role of KFR to report on why it is responding to medical calls. They go to the calls when needed. They help individuals as required. KFR is an excellent companion to the BC Ambulance Services to provide fast response.
But if we want to make our city better, if we want to think of better ways of doing things, data always helps.
Here are just a few types of data that might help us do things better.
Since 2016, B.C. has experienced a significant increase in opioid related overdoses and deaths. How many of KFR’s responses are drug related?
Accidental falls are the leading cause of hospitalization in B.C. When and where are they happening?
How many youth and seniors require a medical response? Are there parts of the City that can be improved to be safer for these groups?
I’ve heard the argument from City staff that KFR’s primary responsibility is fire protection so that should be the focus. True enough. But when half or more of their calls are medical, it’s time to acknowledge the importance of that work as well. With 12% of the City’s budget going to Kamloops Fire and Rescue, it’s time they collected data that could help make our community safer for everyone.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.