Always call 911 in an emergency
In a story reported in the Jan. 9 edition of the Times, entitled, “Call ambulance to avoid Fire Dept. fees,” it was reported that District 2 Supervisor Jim Chapman said in December that he wanted the public to know about the option of calling Sierra Emergency Medical Service directly.
“That takes us back in time about 20 years,” said Susanville Fire Department Chief Stu Ratner at a 3 p.m. emergency meeting at SIFC.
“It’s taken us a long time to get everyone on the same page. 911 is the emergency phone call number, and that’s what the fire departments, the sheriff’s department, law enforcement and Emergency Medical Services want.”
“I think it’s beyond want, it’s a state mandate,” said Office of Emergency Services Chief Chip Jackson.
According to the mandatory 911 standards in the California 911 operations manual, “The advertising or promotion of seven-digit telephone numbers for any type of emergency service by either public or private agencies is not permitted.”
Craig Kincaid, who represents the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection at SIFC, said that departments all over Lassen County are now receiving phone calls trying to find out which number to call, in case of an emergency, that doesn’t charge a fee.
The city’s $62 fee only affects those outside the Susanville city limits who live in the Susan River Fire District, particularly those in need of a medical response.
“We’ve got tons of people calling in now wanting to not call 911 because of their fear of this fee,” Kincaid said. “Some people understand and some don’t (understand) that when you call 911, even in Lassen County, as rural as we are, it comes up on a screen that has your phone number and your address. If you don’t call 911, then we don’t know where you are, and we have to query you.”
If someone calls SEMSA, when the company dispatches an ambulance, the 911 system will pick up the call and dispatch the fire department anyway, he added.
All 911 calls first go to the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office, the primary public safety answering point. Calls are then transferred to a secondary PSAP, such as SIFC, the ambulance company or fire department.
Kincaid went on to say people are now requesting special treatment, such as people who are demanding that their address be flagged so that the fire department is not sent to them. He said lots of people don’t realize that there are only two ambulances in the Susanville-Honey Lake Basin and one in Westwood that the dispatch center uses up quickly.
The fire departments are almost always the first responders, Kincaid said, and requesting to not have the fire department respond would mean you would be waiting during the time of an emergency.
Everyone at the meeting wanted it made clear that the fee is not something that’s universally attached to a response from the city fire department.
“If you go through the (original) article, it carried the weight of ‘if you’re anywhere in Lassen County, and you get the fire department, then you’re going to get a bill from (the city of Susanville),’ and that’s simply not true,” Kincaid said. “It’s only in areas on the edges of the Susanville city limit. If you live in Janesville, then you’re not going to get a bill when the Janesville Fire Department responds to your (emergency),”
Ratner explained the bill charged to people who live just outside the city limits goes right back into the fire department to help it recover small costs.
“Susan River, right now, does not respond to medical calls,” Ratner said. “They are our partners, and we’re leaving our district and we are going out of our area to go to a medical call. What we’ve done is establish a fee schedule, and that fee schedule is there so we can recoup a maintenance fee to help us with fuel. The city is not charging for personnel.”
“The way it read in the paper is that the city is trying to take somebody for $60. In actuality, they’re trying to extend the olive branch to our partners in the Susan River District because their department at this time doesn’t go out on medical calls.”
Editor’s note: The Jan. 9 story said the fee is only charged to those in the Susan river Fire District because it does not have medical capacity.
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