- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The Lincoln firefighters union has challenged the fire chief’s order to use a pickup instead of a firetruck to respond to some medical calls.

Chief John Huff sent a directive about the truck on May 12, telling captains at Station No. 1 to use what’s called the alternate response vehicle or report why they didn’t. That order prompted the grievance filed two weeks ago by the Lincoln Firefighters Association, the Lincoln Journal Star said (https://bit.ly/1qtg09G ). Huff has until June 19 to respond.

City Public Safety Director Tom Casady told the newspaper that the pickup wasn’t being used as often as it should be used. City officials have said the pickup is a more cost-effective way to get paramedics to patients more quickly.

But union leaders have said the savings are minimal and come at the expense of safety.

“Arriving without the appropriate vehicle, tools, or equipment not only delays the ability to resolve the emergency, it also now requires that an additional crew respond from further away, reducing the fire and EMS coverage in their assigned area,” interim union president Ron Trouba Jr. said.

Fire crews for years have responded to all medical calls with a fire engine and ambulance. In 2012 the department placed a specially equipped crew-cab pickup at Station No. 1 downtown as a test. Administrators hope to put more pickups at more stations eventually.

Station 1 used the pickup 49 times that first year, but only 11 times in 2013, according to Lincoln Fire & Rescue records. A fire engine at the station was used on 2,345 medical calls last year.

Figures for the pickup this year aren’t available, but Casady said it’s not being used enough.

The pickup can carry three or four paramedics, just like a fire engine, he said.

“What’s important to you is getting a paramedic at your side,” Casady said. “It’s not important what the paramedic arrives in.”

Trouba disagreed. Fire captains decide what trucks to deploy based on information they get from dispatch, but the information may prove unreliable as a situation develops, Trouba said. The pickup is too small to carry all the equipment crews may need when they reach a scene, Trouba said, which could require that a firetruck be sent with the larger equipment.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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