Dickinson Fire Department makes changes to accommodate for volume of EMS calls

A new approach to handling emergency medical service calls unveiled by local officials during city commission meeting

The Dickinson Fire Department will now use department pickup trucks in place of big rig fire trucks to respond to EMS calls.
Photo by Allison Engstrom / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON - Dickinson Fire Department is set to roll out a new method to manage their high volume of emergency medical service response calls. The new method involves deploying a half-ton pickup truck instead of big rig fire trucks, equipped with two EMTs and necessary medical equipment to respond to medical emergencies.

The novel change is expected to reduce the wear and tear on vehicles and improve reaction time, particularly for the 57% of calls in February that were for EMS services. The department plans to adjust to the change, and the deputy fire chief is already working with apartment complexes to decrease the number of false alarm responses.

During the city commission meeting on March 7, a presentation by the Dickinson Fire Department outlined that the department offers more services than just fire suppression, including fire prevention and regional response. According to DFD administrators, the majority of its calls have been medical in nature.

In January 73% of calls received by the department were for EMS, though the numbers for EMS services are down for February at 57%. Jeremy Presnell, fire chief of Dickinson Fire Department, attributes the decrease to working closely with ambulance services to determine whether incoming calls need both fire and ambulance services at the scene.

In instances where it was not a necessity, Presnell noted that the ambulance canceled the fire assistance portion of the call.


Since the change, Presnell reported 40 fewer EMS calls between January and February, but noted that efforts to accommodate the amount of EMS calls had prompted the department to consider a change in vehicle type for future responses. Instead of sending the large fire trucks, the department will now deploy their half-ton pickup truck to EMS calls.

The pickup will be equipped with two EMTs and a variety of necessary medical equipment in order to respond to medical emergencies, according to Presnell.

“It's not going to eliminate fire trucks from responding to EMS calls 100%, but probably about 80%...” Presnell said.

The department plans to use their current pickup to expedite the new change, though they do have another one purchased from reimbursement funds the department received from going to Hurricane Ida — which is currently undergoing installation of lights and sirens.

“I'm glad to see that we’re adjusting to the scenarios with the EMS. I think this will be a benefit to not only the wear and tear on vehicles, but also our reaction time getting out there to some of these calls because rolling a half ton is a lot faster than hauling the big rigs…” Mayor Scott Decker said.

In this Dickinson Press file photo, a volunteer fire fighter covered in ice after battling house fire in sub-zero temperatures.
Photo by Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Presnell said that he does anticipate it taking time for the department to adjust to the change, though he is confident in the abilities of his department.

“It’s going to be a little bit of adjustment as we go, I mean this is something pretty new to us kind of doing it this way, but I’m pretty confident with the team that we do have in the fire department that this will definitely make a difference,” Presnell said.

According to the presentation, the second highest volume of calls received by the department fell under the false alarm category at 17%. Mayor Decker did point out that it seems many of the calls are at apartment buildings throughout the community. Presnell attributed this increase to cold weather and pipes freezing or leaking which has been setting off alarms, particularly a struggle at some older apartment buildings.


“The deputy fire chief has really been watching this and he is starting to work with some of these apartment complexes to see how we can decrease the number of responses...” Presnell said.

Allison is a news reporter from Phoenix, Arizona where she earned a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. After college, she worked as a middle school writing teacher in the valley. She has made her way around the U.S. driving from Arizona to Minnesota and eventually finding herself here in Dickinson. She has a passion for storytelling and enjoys covering community news.
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