The Baltimore Sun submitted Public Records Act requests to access files from the Baltimore Fire Department. The newspaper was denied the requests on the grounds that the documents were not available. However, an audio copy of a 911 call that took place in July was available, where the dispatcher originally sent the paramedics to the wrong address.
A special assistant solicitor in the Baltimore City Law Department, Benjamin A. Bor, told the newspaper in an email that the Fire Department “is unable to produce a full, unredacted copy of the record of the aforementioned 911 call to you because it consists almost entirely of medical information about an individual that the custodian is required to protect from disclosure.”
The Sun initially requested the information, along with the call from the Fire Department in March. Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, Brand M. Scott, is summoning a hearing on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in an attempt to attain similar data from the Fire Department officials.
Legal and policy director for Common Cause Maryland, Damon Effingham, said he was astonished with the city lawyers’ response that some of the Fire Department’s requested records were unavailable, including the average number of 911 calls falling into the medical and fire categories. This information can aid in improving essential city services.
“It is unfortunate if they’re not keeping it and if they are, the point of the Public Information Act is for the public and legislators to review data and fine-tune policies and solutions,” Effingham told The Sun. “There are very few places where that is more important than emergency services.
“This data has to be somewhere.”
Other information requested, included paramedic and dispatcher overtime claims for the past three years; 911 calls answered by dispatchers; medic units response numbers per shift; the policy governing when a dispatcher sends a basic or advanced unit; and the number of paramedics and dispatchers that are employed with the Fire Department, along with base pay for a paramedic and EMT.
In 2013, the Fire Department released information to The Sun on response times to medical calls for its fire trucks, with a firefighter trained in basic life support and ambulances.