EMSA Asks Tulsa City Council To Increase Recommended Response Times

Thursday, September 19th 2013, 5:59 pm
By: News On 6

EMSA wants permission to take longer to get to your emergency. It said paramedics can drive slower, even without lights and sirens, and still save just as many lives.

EMSA is asking the city council to extend response times by two minutes, saying it won't affect patients' survival rate, but some city councilors aren't buying that.

We see them all the time, ambulances racing through intersections on a mission to save a life.

"It's dangerous, for not only the crew members in the truck, but the citizens around," said Jason Whitlow, of EMSA.

That's why EMSA is asking Tulsa city councilors to increase ambulance response times.

Under the current policy, paramedics have less than nine minutes to get to life threatening emergencies. They want to change that to just under 11 minutes.

Whitlow said the current recommended time was created 30 years ago, and since then, the national recommendation has changed.

"It's a nationwide thing, where we're trying to slow down the ambulances a little bit by keeping life safety in mind," Whitlow said.

Some city councilors worry other first responders, like the fire department, will have to pick up the slack if response times drop.

"I like the response times where they're at," said Councilor Skip Steele. "I think our goal ought to be to reduce our response times. That will be the goal to our citizens."

On average, EMSA ambulances in Oklahoma get in seven wrecks per month, while driving with their emergency lights and sirens on.

To lower those numbers, EMSA is also considering turning off emergency lights and sirens for all non life-threatening calls and increasing that response time from 11 minutes to 25.

"I don't think there's anything that should stand in the way of providing excellent service when lives are on the line," Steele said.

Whitlow said, "It's not that we don't care or it's all about money or anything. It's about safety and it's about us getting to the patients safely."

The fire department said it isn't sure how the longer times will impact them, but they support EMSA and the medical director's decision.

EMSA said part of the reason it can afford to extend response times is because all dispatchers are trained to give assistance while paramedics are en route.

City councilors say they're not sure when they will vote on this hot topic.