MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Will a new tool help the Memphis Fire Department better respond to medical emergencies and save the city money, or will it slow response times? When it comes to this issue, the answer you get depends on who you ask.
Memphis fire bosses say the new Alternative Response Vehicles will save the city money. They use less gas and will save wear and tear on the full-sized equipment.
Instead of taking fire engines or trucks to medical calls, firefighters can jump in ARV's.
It has medical equipment like an ambulance and tools similar a fire truck, but it's neither. That's the problem, according to the firefighters union.
Union spokesperson Joe Norman says truth is if firefighters are in the ARV when a fire call is dispatched, firefighters have to go back to the station to get large firefighting equipment. That means it will take longer to get to a fire.
"Essentially crews will be unable to respond as they normally would have been," he said. "Should there be a fire, car accident, a rescue where you are going to need everything off an engine, there's going be a delay in response to the emergency."
Fire Director Alvin Benson says the majority of calls in the city are medical calls, not fire.
"Could a fire come in? Yes, it can happen, but in this city we have 56 other engines that can also respond," Benson said.
Union leaders say there have already been problems since the ARV's were put into service a few weeks ago. When a fire broke out at an apartment complex on High Point Terrace, firefighters were in the ARV so large fire equipment had to be dispatched from another station.
Norman noted, "There was still a delay, whether it was 30 seconds or 3 minutes."
Fire Director Benson says there is going to be resistance because people are afraid of change. Union leaders say this could cause loss of life and property. We'll have to keep a close eye on this one and see who is telling the truth.