Addressing the Future of Fire/EMS Services & Facilities in Vancouver

A firefighter/EMT with one of the rescue SUVs deployed during the pilot project

City Council Goal

In 2012, the Vancouver City Council established the goal of addressing the future of fire, EMS and emergency preparedness facilities in the City.

In cooperation with two of its firefighter unions - Fire Command Officers and Fire Fighters Local – the Vancouver Fire Department conducted a re-engineering process in 2012. This process reviewed current fire and emergency medical service delivery processes with the goal of better serving residents, given current funding challenges.

This process included the evaluation of current fire and EMS services by an independent community panel made up of citizens, business and nonprofit leaders. In fall 2012, this panel issued a report including short and long-term recommendations to improve and streamline fire and EMS services.

Progress Report (2013-15)

  • SUV Pilot Project: In April-June 2013, VFD conducted a pilot project that sent smaller SUVs with two staff instead of a fire engine with a full crew to less urgent medical calls. This also allowed fire engines to be more readily available to respond to time life critical fire alarms.

    At the same time, VFD also made changes in firefighters' schedules to better match peak times for service demands. The data produced during this pilot project is currently being analyzed. After evaluating the results of the pilot, a second phase of the pilot may be implemented that functions according the same as the first phase, but without new resources. This means the current staffing levels will be maintained with some staff redirected from a fire unit to the SUV’s during peak hours. Read the final Phase 1 Pilot Project Report (PDF).

  • Reduce obligation to respond to less urgent medical calls: On April 1, 2013, the VFD adjusted all of its lowest priority 5 medical calls to an ambulance only response to maintain resources to time/life critical events. This should result in approximately 1,100 calls per year being served by an ambulance-only response.

In May 2015, the City announced plans to relocate both Fire Station 1 and 2 to better serve the areas of the city with the largest call volumes, as recommended by the Phase I report. A piece of property on the northeast corner of E. Fourth Plain Boulevard and Main Street will become the future home of Fire Station 1 (construction is expected to begin in February 2016). Fire Station 2 will move to a new location along the Fourth Plain Corridor, east of I-5.

  • Transfer equipment savings to personnel: Any savings derived from the SUV Pilot Project related to mileage and equipment maintenance cost reductions have been used to maintain current firefighter staffing levels.
  • Educate the public: The VFD has continued to expand it public education outreach in areas of known risk within the community, including Fire Corps education efforts to schools and at public events and community-wide education efforts about Hands Only CPR, smoke detectors, how to avoid the top three causes of fires inside the city, fireworks use and the PulsePoint smartphone app.
  • EMS Service Redesign: Starting in January 2015, the City began contracting directly with AMR to provide ambulance services. Learn more.