Newly sworn in New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made some remarks recently regarding the ambulance response time to a fatal fire that claimed the lives of two 4-year old children in Far Rockaway over the weekend.
“I am very, very concerned,” de Blasio told reporters at an impromptu press conference near City Hall. “And if we have to make some changes, we’ll make some changes because when we do this work we have to know that each and every time the ambulance will get there as quickly as humanly possible.”
De Blasio said it was unclear if a faster response could have saved the children, but he promised the inquiry launched by Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano into the events would be quick.
According to the articles the timeline of the call went something like this:
- 11:51pm – First 9-1-1 call is received
- 11:56pm – First engine arrives
- 11:57pm – Fire is confirmed by arriving firefighters
- 12:05am – First ambulance is assigned
- 12:12am – First ambulance arrives
There’s an important fact I’d like to point out. First, here are the average response times as reported by FDNY for 2013:
It’s important to note that by confirming a fire the ambulance should have been dispatched to a Standby (STNDBY) in the CAD system which is a Segment 8 priority. The average Response Time for Segments 1-8 is 9 minutes and 24 seconds. The responding ambulance took approximately 7 minutes to arrive. Even if we give benefit of the doubt and make it 8 minutes, the responding ambulance’s arrival is still better than average. Another important factor to note is that while they average Segments 1 and Segments 1-3 separately, there is no average given for Segments 2-8 or Segments 4-8. If I were to make an educated guess, I would guess that the Average Response Time for Segments 4-8 is over 11 minutes. With that in mind, considering the information the ambulance crew was given, they made great time.
The issue isn’t the response time, the issue is the amount of time it took for the ambulance to be dispatched.
This is not the first time where there has been a significant delay in dispatching EMS resources. Less than a year ago (June 4, 2013) there was a delay in dispatching resources to 4 year-old Ariel Russo who was struck by an SUV while walking with her grandmother in Harlem. In December the Department of Investigations concluded that it was human error that caused the four minute delay in dispatching the ambulance to Ariel Russo.
So here we have two similar cases, within a year of each other, that share the root problem of being the communications department. This department is the same one that recently cleared EMT Melissa Jackson was working in when she refused to aid the fallen ill Eutisha Rennix. This department is the same one that the current Chief of EMS Abdou Nahmod was formerly in charge of. Coincidence? Or is it symptomatic of issues that will indeed require Mayor de Blasio to make a change to the leadership as opposed to the software his predecessor focused on.
The fact is that you can add 1,000 ambulances to your EMS system, but if you don’t communicate to them in a timely and effective manner what needs to get done, none of your calls will be answered. The ambulances are there, the EMTs and Paramedics are willing, all that needs to happen is to give them the call.
On an interesting side note, I decided to take a look at what the average response time was 10 years ago:
In 10 years there has been an increase of 1:14 in response time, increase of 186,549 calls (an extra 511 calls per day), and an additional 79.1 tours (632.8 unit hours for a .80 for all you UHU fanatics). It’s an interesting snapshot… but it’s just that, an overhead snapshot. On the surface it looks as if the increase in response times is due to not keeping pace with growing call volume through expanding resources.
Whether it’s personnel, systematic, or software glitches it’s obvious that FDNY EMS is under the microscope as the steward of the New York City Emergency Medical Services System and needs to make a change to avoid these service delays.