Ambulance Arrives 48 Minutes After 911 Call

1:03 PM, Feb 19, 2012   |    comments
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A Rural Metro ambulance.

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Forty Eight minutes after the 9-1-1 call, the ambulance finally showed up.

The call didn't come from the middle of nowhere. It came from downtown Buffalo in middle of the afternoon Friday. While the person they treated was fine, the delay seems to have raised a few eyebrows.

In the City of Buffalo, one ambulance service, Rural/Metro, responds to all of the calls, averaging about 300 per day.

It was their job to respond to a call from the Erie County Library Friday afternoon. The call went out at 12:55pm. A person was having a seizure at the library. In Buffalo, the fire department also responds to medical emergencies. Firefighters arrived at the library within three minutes at 12:58pm. They treated the patient.

The ambulance did not come until 1:43pm, or a full 48 minutes after the call.

While firefighters are able to provide medical treatment, their training is often limited. Also, they're not allowed to take a patient to the hospital.

"Eight minutes is the time they're supposed to respond," Buffalo Common Council Member David Franczyk said. "And, anything more than eight minutes is a problem. If you add 40 to that eight, it's a disaster."

Franczyk is referring to the "industry standard," which is a response time of eight minutes.

So what happened Friday?

The head of Rural/Metro would not speak to us on camera, but told that, at the time of the call, Rural/Metro was responding to 10 other emergencies in the city. Also, the dispatch office (which is called" ADI") determined the emergency at the library was not life-threatening, meaning, it did not need to send an emergency crew immediately unless the situation changed.

"If this is a one-time only, it's a dangerous one-time only," Franczyk said. "They should do everything in their power to make sure that never happens again. And if there is a pattern of it, that's scary."

Rural/Metro says its average response time for emergencies in Buffalo is seven minutes, but acknowledges it has had other "extended calls" like the one on Friday.

Its General Manager Jay Smith sent 2 On Your Side the following statement:

"The call was dispatched by ADI to Rural/Metro as a Basic Life Support (BLS), non-life-threatening incident. Our Buffalo Fire Department partners were on scene within minutes and provided necessary patient care during that time. Based on the priority of the call as assigned by ADI, the response time was prolonged due to multiple life-threatening emergencies happening in the City at the same time. Rural/Metro followed existing protocols based on the patient's condition, and had ADI elevated the call we would have responded accordingly. We meet with our partners regularly to ensure continuous system performance."

Had the call been for something life-threatening, Smith said Rural/Metro would have sent one of its emergency paramedic crews immediately, adding it must preserve its limited resources for the most serious calls.

Franczyk said he will ask the city's Emergency Medical Services Board to look into the company's response.


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