ELYRIA – The Elyria Fire Department has a lower on-average response time to medical emergencies then LifeCare Ambulance, but city firefighters also respond to nearly a third fewer calls than the private company.
When the response times of the two groups are compared, the Elyria Fire Department arrives faster, according to Bruce Shade, the city’s assistant safety service director.
“We have multiple stations in Elyria from which to respond from so when you have a fire truck ready to go in the key locations in the city, you get on scene quicker,” he said. “Also, I would say it’s probably due to the call volume for LifeCare. They are a busy agency and it’s conceivable they have a lot going on.”
The Fire Department had an average response time for July of four minutes and 53 seconds and four minutes and 41 seconds for August.
Earlier this week in a memo Shade drafted, he offered a glimpse into the data the city has collected from LifeCare concerning the months of July and August.
LifeCare was documented as having an average response time of five minutes and 39 seconds for July and five minutes and 47 seconds in August, the memo said.
The memo called the LifeCare average within acceptable standards.
During that two-month period, the Fire Department went on fewer calls – 173 in July and 177 in August. LifeCare went on 479 medical emergency calls in July and 463 calls in August.
LifeCare President Pete de la Porte said staying busy is the way LifeCare has always structured its business model, but it is not stretched too thin to adequately cover Elyria.
“When we get called out on medical emergencies – and I mean everything – we go,” he said. “I am very happy with our response time because they are well within acceptable standards.”
While the average falls within acceptable standards, the city said it needs to further evaluate why LifeCare had multiple occurrences in which response times were longer than 10 minutes – 22 times in July and another 13 times in August.
That evaluation is ongoing as the city evaluates LifeCare’s 17-year-old service contract with Elyria.
“It’s been demonstrated in many studies, and is what I would say is the appropriate standard, is if you can get to someone within six minutes, they stand a better change of surviving,” Shade said.
Shade said he stands behind the Fire Department numbers, which reflect how long it took firefighters to arrive on scene from the moment a call comes into the fire station from a 911 dispatcher. Firefighters on scene then use radios to communicate back to 911 that they are on scene and the time is noted.
“We dump data from 911 right into the Fire Department’s database,” he said. “I know there are departments that use mobile data terminals in their vehicles and while the city’s fire trucks are equipped with the terminals, I have found that radio communications are reliable because it became a part of a person’s routine. You don’t have to remember to press a button on a terminal.”
LifeCare ambulances are all timed using GPS tracking, de la Porte said.
“You can’t fake GPS. The times are documented at all time,” he said.
Fire Chief Rich Benton said he also believes location -- not the number or type of medical calls responded to -- account for response times.
“We don’t respond on every single medical call,” he said. “We only go for life-threatening emergencies like heart attack, stroke, seizures and diabetic. The whole concept behind having a good first responder program is you want to get there when the minutes count.”
Benton said it’s been nearly 15 years since the Fire Department developed the criteria for when it would respond as first responders.
“We know that many times an individual calling 911 does not have the medical expertise to be able to determine if some situations are life-threatening, but 911 dispatchers are very skilled at getting information quickly and dispatching who is needed,” he said.
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