Fire district 3 considering community paramedic program

Clallam County Fire District 3 leaders have started forming a community paramedic program to help residents making non-emergency 9-1-1 phone calls.

Battalion Chief Elliott Jones said at a Feb. 13 fire commissioner special meeting that of Fire District 3’s approximate 8,500 annual emergency calls a year, about 1,800 are low acuity (low emergency).

A week prior at another commissioner meeting, District 3 interim chief Dan Orr said the district’s current low acuity unit consists of one staffer — firefighter/EMT Scott Dickson — who will be retiring soon, opening up an opportunity to expand the position’s role.

“Staff would like to see it, and we’d like to stick our big toe in the water,” Orr said.

Staffers indicated they continue to explore options on how to better triage low acuity calls.

Deputy fire chief Tony Hudson said the community paramedic program would operate to start similarly to the low acuity unit now: a medic responds to a scene and can call for the community paramedic to take over when available, or he/she responds along with the medics.

“We’re working towards triaging calls to where a navigator could be the one to respond,” Hudson said.

“We’re not there yet … we have room to improve,” he said. “[The question is], can we intercept it before it gets dispatched to a medical unit?”

Emergency crews will continue to respond to all 9-1-1 calls, district leaders said, and the community paramedic could help a patient find the care needed, such as a primary care physician, a counselor or another service.

“It’d be someone who could work with (the patient) and truly spend some time to see the services that could help,” Orr said.

While many specifics have to be worked out including the job description and policies, fire commissioners said they’d be interested in having the position roll out this summer.

Jones said using a navigator rather than a nurse would be the easiest transition for the district as it’s “more of a progression of where we’ve been and where we want to go.”

Orr said this would be different from Port Angeles Fire Department’s program as it focuses on mental health and addiction intervention.

“With our population it’d be more about (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and diabetes, not overdoses,” Orr said.

“We’re also fortunate to have (the Jamestown Healing Clinic) that we can reference folks to.”

Staff said Dickson is compiling a list of repeat 9-1-1 callers that the community paramedic could help.

Jones said Fire District 3’s paramedics are at the top of their games, dedicated and do everything well.

“(A community paramedic) is not a bridge too far,” he said. “By taking on this additional responsibility, I don’t foresee any issues.”

“By bringing on the community medic, it’s going to shorten the amount of time paramedics are (on scene), even if the community paramedic is there,” Orr said.

Next steps

To start, Jones recommended one community paramedic operate Monday-Thursday. It would take the person 120 hours of training to become a certified community paramedic, he said.

Commissioners agreed that public education on the new program would be important through local media outlets, churches and community groups.

“So much of this is education about our staff and how we do things,” said commissioner Jeff Nicholas.

“We don’t want people to call 9-1-1 for a cold.”

Fire commissioner Mike Mingee asked staff to look into call numbers for skilled nursing facilities too, and if they can create guidelines for them as they have staff on scene to assist with lifts and other non-emergencies.

Jones said that’s something they’ll want to discuss with community partners.

For more information Clallam County Fire District 3, visit