Characteristics of fire station walk-in patients. Academic Article uri icon


  • To characterize the use of fire stations for walk-in health care and compare utilization patterns of fire stations in lower-income areas with those in higher-income areas.The study was a retrospective review of emergency medical services (EMS) medical forms of patients who presented directly to a fire station for medical care during a 12-month period.During the study period, there were a total of 56,600 EMS calls by the studied fire department, with 155 visits by persons presenting to 19 fire stations in the 12 zip code areas. Of these, 131 were eligible for inclusion in our study. Of the 131 visits, 76 of 131 (58%) occurred in zip codes where more than 20% of residents lived below poverty level. Patients presenting to the fire station for medical care were disproportionately male, 84 of 131 (64%), aged 31-50 years, 61 of 131 (47%). Leading chief complaints were abrasion/laceration/hematoma, 20 of 131 (15%), shortness of breath, 18 of 131 (14%), loss of consciousness/syncope/dizziness/weakness, 17 of 131 (13%), musculoskeletal pain, 17 of 131 (13%), and chest pain, 14 of 131 (11%). Suicide, assault, alcohol, or substance intoxication (SAAD) was associated with 47 of 131 (36%) visits. Following evaluation at the fire station, 97 of 131 (82%) were transported by EMS; few patients were transported by private vehicle (n = 11) or did not need transport (n = 12).In the authors' EMS system, the use of fire stations for walk-in health occurs disproportionately in areas of poverty. SAAD features are present in more than one third of the visits.

publication date

  • March 2003