JACKSON, Wyo. — In the last three years, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS has seen a 40% increase in call volume, which according to Chief Brady Hansen is the biggest challenge his team faces.
With unprecedented visitation, 2021 was difficult for the valley’s workforce as a whole, and JH Fire/EMS was no exception. Hansen explained that last summer’s visitation influx was the leading factor contributing to the increase in 911 calls.
“It’s not just us. The airport saw a big increase along with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort,” Hansen said. “Our increase in call volume is almost exactly the increase in call volume to the airport, Teton Village and the hotel industry.”
Hansen explained that not one call category increased more than the other. Rather, call volume increased across the board and at a rate that was too challenging for his team to keep up with.
“If you were to graph all of our call categories on a pie chart, and ask which peice of the pie is growing, whether it be ground level falls, general medicals, structure fires, wildland fires, river rescues, the answer it is that the whole pie got bigger. Every category is going up, more wildland fires, more medicals more car accidents, more diabetic calls. Everything is really related to just more people.”
Simply put, this increase is a function of the closer people are together and the more people there are, the more person-on-person interaction there will be. Therefore, there are more car accidents and the demand for emergency services will increase.
Meanwhile, Hansen and his team are still developing a strategy amongst their leadership to decide on the right number of resources to ask for in the next year.
“I spent the whole spring, summer and fall regretting that we didn’t ask for more staffing. It was too challenging. If we never arrive when someone calls 911 we consider that a critical failure of service.”
And while this is never acceptable, Hansen noted that too many resources can be inefficient so asking for the right amount is something they’d like to nail on the head. But for emergency services sometimes that cannot be the primary focus.
“In our line of work we feel like there is a tug of war between efficient and alwauys being effective. While we want to be efficient we dont want to be wasteful. We are in a buisness that always has to be effective and we accepot that soemtimes there may be an inefficiency to that to make sure that if at 4 oclock in the morning somebody needs us, we are coming.”
With these challenges at hand, Hansen notes that his industry doesn’t exactly have room for mistakes.
“We’re in that line of work where we can never fail, we have an expectation that we always meet the customers’ needs and this year that was super challenging.”
JH Fire/ EMS is also currently short of volunteers and is actively recruiting.