+ RMA Rural Municipalities
of Alberta

Resolution 9-14F

Fire Department Response to Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Calls

October 20, 2014
Expiry Date:
November 30, 2017
Active Status:
Mountain View County
2 - Central
Emergency Services
Intent Not Met
Vote Results:

WHEREAS many municipalities provide medical first and co-response in rural areas, and municipal leaders are being held accountable for gaps in service, due to the unavailability of timely Alberta Health Services response; and

WHEREAS in rural Alberta it is difficult for Alberta Health Services to provide the same level of service to all communities; and

WHEREAS a significant amount of responses for small rural fire departments tend to be related to emergency calls that fall under Alberta Health Services’ responsibilities; and

WHEREAS Alberta Health Services is requesting, through 911 dispatch, that our fire departments respond to emergency medical calls; and

WHEREAS rural communities feel they have been overlooked in the implementation to centralize all services related to health, even though the current challenges to 911 and first responders still remain the responsibility of municipalities;

Operative Clause:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that Alberta Health Services (AHS) provide compensation to municipalities when fire departments are dispatched to respond to emergency calls by the Emergency Medical System 911 dispatcher;

FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that an independent review of Alberta 911 procedures takes place to ensure the 911 system is operating efficiently between police, fire, and emergency medical services.

Member Background:

 1. AHS Mandate

(a)(i) – promote and protect the health of the population in Alberta and work toward the prevention of disease and injury;

(a)(ii) – assess on an ongoing basis the health needs of Alberta;

(a)(iii)  determine priorities in the provision of health services in Alberta and allocate resources accordingly;

(a)(iv) – ensure that reasonable access to quality health services is provided in and through Alberta; and

(a)(v) – promote the provision of health services in a manner that is responsive to the needs of individuals and communities and supports the integration of services and facilities in Alberta. 

2. AHS Mission

To provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

 AUMA 2011 (Provincial Scope 7 Resolution) – Fire Services as a First Responder to Emergency Calls Status:  NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association urge the Government of Alberta to consider compensation for fire service providers as first responders to emergency call outs. Ministers Response Alberta Health & Wellness – Jan 25/12

With respect to your resolution regarding compensation for fire service providers as first responders to emergency calls, the resolution as written has a very broad scope.

Fire service provider emergency calls include, but are not limited to, fire suppression, highway vehicle rescue, hazardous material response, medical first response, and disaster response; this significant role played by fire service providers extends beyond the mandate of the Health and Wellness ministry.  Current practice is that these first responder services provided by fire service providers are funded by the municipality as part of their responsibility to develop and maintain safe and viable communities.  Should you have further questions, please contact Mr. Brian Singleton at 780-422-9698.

Community first responders (CFR’s) in rural Alberta are firefighters, both volunteer and/or paid on call, who are trained to provide pre-arrival medical care (first on the scene assistance) and medical assist/support, security of the scene and making the environment safe for emergency team members, supportive medical care, landing STARS, communication, and extrication.

Vast distances in rural areas mean that estimated ambulance arrival times of more than 10 minutes are common.  Ambulances are often the last to arrive at a rural emergency, because they regularly have extended distances to travel on roads that are unfamiliar to the attendants. Fire-based first responders are commonly the first to arrive at accident scenes in rural Alberta. Remote rural fire departments are burning out volunteers by responding to 911 emergency medical calls. As a result of lengthy travel times, fire departments are frequently being dispatched by 911 to respond to AHS calls.

Several years ago, the Minister of Health asked the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) to review the status of ground EMS in Alberta and provide a report and recommendations by October 31, 2012. While this review would not examine the decision to transfer governance and funding of EMS from municipalities to the health system, it would examine the impacts resulting from this transfer. The review has a broad scope which, from a patient safety and quality perspective, will include EMS dispatch consolidations, the availability and adequacy of data on EMS and challenges specific to rural areas and to integrated fire/EMS service providers. The results of this review will be valuable in setting the direction of EMS for the future.

In an emergency situation, treatment begins as soon as the EMS team arrives and continues until the patient can be cared for in a medical facility.  In rural areas, many fire departments seek training to extend their ability to respond to accidents and sudden medical emergencies within their communities.  As firefighters, they are automatically coordinated with ambulance and police services through local 911 dispatch centres.  This additional training aids in caring for the patient(s) until EMS arrives at the scene.

The decision of the province to separate the dispatch and communications systems for ambulance service provided by Alberta Health Services has created communication barriers between fire and ambulance.  An independent “911 Act” may eliminate these communication barriers.

The goal is to ensure that Albertans receive the care they need in a timely manner. Municipalities will work with all agencies, to provide a consistent level of care to patients no matter where they are in the province, in the hopes that AHS will also work with participating agencies to provide medical direction so that safe care is being provided. 

The Partnership for Rural EMS Direction (RED) was formed by municipal leaders, fire and dispatch staff and citizens concerned about the impact of transition on 911 call centres, coordinated dispatch and emergency response.  A series of RED documents and research reports have been prepared and are included on the community first responder website at www.ruralcommunityresponders.com.

For the purpose of medical first response or medical assist, the following examples are tasks performed by fire departments at the request of AHS:

  • Extricate victims from vehicles and equipment using the Jaws of Life, etc. for EMS transfer to medical facilities;
  • Provide comfort and care to victims, stabilize and provide first aid and emergency care, assessment of vitals and injuries, fracture stabilization, breathing apparatus, provide CPR and operate AED;
  • Assist with preparing victims for transport and/or aid in transport to medical facilities.
RMA Background:

21-11F: Cellular 911 Call Answer Fees

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that the Government of Alberta pass legislation compelling cellular telephone service providers operating in Alberta to collect a monthly cellular 911 call answer fee from its subscribers and remit those revenues to the municipalities operating 911 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPS).

DEVELOPMENTS: The AAMDC is pleased with the progress made on this issue. Starting April 1, 2014 the Emergency 911 Act will come into effect and add 44 cents to each cellphone bill. The money from the new levy will help fund 911 centres across the province. With the passing of this legislation, the AAMDC deems this resolution Accepted.


Government Response:

Health: The Ministry of Health has no plans to recommend a fee-for-service arrangement for medical first response (MFR), as municipalities have a public safety role to develop and maintain safe communities.  However, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is implementing a provincial program for MFR that includes a registry and support for MFR agencies, such as protocols, quality assurance, patient care report development and a disposable equipment exchange program.  AHS will roll out the MFR program in phases throughout 2015.  Municipal involvement in this program is voluntary and a municipality is free to determine the types of calls to which its MFR agency will respond.

With regard to efficient operation of the 911 system between emergency services, the Ministry of Health will continue to support close co?operation between AHS Emergency Medical Services (EMS), municipal councils, staff and fire chiefs to discuss dispatch and communications issues such as linkages between fire, EMS and police during MFR situations, including motor vehicle accidents or other incidents that threaten public safety.  Implementation of the Alberta First Responder Radio Communications System is expected to bring significant improvement to communications between emergency services.


The government response provides no indication that compensation will be provided to municipalities when fire departments are dispatched to respond to emergency calls by the Emergency Medical System 911 dispatcher. Therefore, this resolution has a status of Intent Not Met. The AAMDC will continue to advocate for an independent review of Alberta’s 911 system.

Provincial Ministries:
Provincial Boards and Organizations:
Alberta Health Services
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