As the CFD continues to face increasing run volumes without an increase in the number of stations or personnel, it is increasingly apparent that existing resources need ot be utilized in the most efficient and effective manner possible. The recent change in EMS response policies was a good first step in that direction. A possible next step, may be to get more "bang for the buck" out of the 16 CFD Ladder Companies.
As each Ladder Company is BLS and none are Quints (No Booster tank or full hose bed), they are somewhat limited in their role. That does not mean to say that Ladder Companies are unimportant or not useful. In fact, the addition of Ladders at Stations 34 and 29 should be a high priority for the CFD. But even with their current apparatus limitations, there are some more things they can do to help the overall picture.
1) How many Paramedics does it take to change a lightbulb? In cases where the Ladder Company is the closest "manpower unit", they should be dispatched with a medic unit over a further ALS Engine. Except in rare cases, there is little justification to dispatch a three unit response for an ALS Emergency. For example, "3600 Gender Road, Chest Pains (With Engine 32 on another run) might be: Ladder-32; Engine-23; and Medic-5. IN cases like these, assigning Ladder-32 and Medic-5 should be more than sufficient and the response time will be the same.
2) How many combi-tools does it take to handle a minor non-injury accident? The size and run volume experienced by CFD suggests the time has come to adopt the common "big-city" approach: Extrication tools on ladder companies. With this increase in capability, reliance on mutual aid rescues will be reduced, The Rescues can be used more efficiently, and on-scene operations will be safer, as the Ladder Company can serve in a "blocking" capacity. Under this scenario, the assignment for auto-accidents would become: 1 Engine; 1 Ladder; & 1 Medic. For freeway incidents or reported extrication, the nearest rescue and EMS coordinator would be assigned.
3) You Get a second piece, and YOU get a second piece: Long term, if the CFD returns to a two tiered system of ALS and BLS units, the Ladder Companies would be ideal partners for BLS "Squads". Especially with additional Ladders at 29s and 34s, (18) BLS Transports partnered with Ladder Companies would be at ideal locations around the city to ensure 10 minute response times for the first one to three units to any address. Further, this would lessen the burden of EMS on the paramedics and get more personnel into the mix of providing EMS service.
4) Water is your friend. Given the growth of Columbus, the need to reduce reliance on the suburbs, and the challenge presented by fires in modern construction, it may also be worth evaluating the type of ladder company apparatus utilized by CFD. Especially for stations outside the outerbelt, a transition to Ladder company apparatus with greater capability may be warranted. This would include, a pump, a small booster tank, minimal amount of hose capacity (both hand-line and supply line) and a small extrication equipment package. This would help ensure adequate fire protection in the outer areas of the city and reduce reliance on mutual aid. For example, if Engine-27 was busy, Ladder-27 could handle a car fire at Smoky-Row and Hard Road, rather than Mutual Aid.