July 7, 2016
By Jeff Clawson, M.D.
As with any new program, the correct application and realizing true impact often requires several “re-boots”. The SLC Medical Priority Dispatch program was initiated “officially” in September of 1979, but compliance was haphazard, and the prioritization of response wasn’t fully applied. A new fire chief, from LA County, Pete Peterson’s first statement to Dr. Jeff Clawson was that he had read about SLCFD’s novel program “in the literature” and then went on to provide the necessary support by his administration to require it be used consistently and more in the way intended to reduce unnecessary multiple unit responses and light-and-siren use. The proof of this second “push,” was then determined to be an amazing 50% reduction of the total vehicles sent, and a 50% reduction in L&S use. A significant part of the success was that all ALPHA-level calls (30%) were transferred directly to the local BLS service, Gold Cross Ambulance, for response, care, and transport—wherein the fire department “didn’t turn a wheel.” Chief Peterson later reported to City Hall and the press, that by also reducing unnecessary response and personnel tie-up, a secondary benefit was that their building inspections, hydrant checks, and training processes were all significantly increased due to the changes.