Kansas City emergency response times improve, still lag behind national average

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Numbers released Wednesday show moderate improvements in the Kansas City Fire Department's emergency response time. However, the city still lags behind the national average in how long it takes for an ambulance to arrive on scene.

City council leaders took a look at the December statistics for the first time Wednesday. While Councilman John Sharp said they are still not where they should be, he is delighted to see some improvement over last month and last year.

The fire department's goal is to get to an emergency within nine minutes or less 90 percent of the time. Last month, they met their goal just 80 percent of the time.

But in the Northland, they reached their goal just 73 percent of the time. In south Kansas City, they only arrived to an emergency within nine minutes 68 percent of the time.

The fire department is in the process of launching four pilot projects in an effort to cut down on response time. As of this month, dispatch can send just one ambulance to an emergency if advanced life-saving equipment or transportation to a hospital is not needed. In the past, both a basic and advanced life support vehicle had to respond even to minor incidents.

In February, 40 paramedics will begin a set schedule to ride with pumper vehicles, so they can get to work right away when they arrive to an emergency. Also in February, 15 firefighters will take a course at UMKC to become licensed as intermediate-level emergency medical technicians. That certification will allow them to start intubation and I.V. treatments, as well as administer some medications before paramedics arrive.

As a final step, the department will roll out more basic life support ambulances to take care of non-emergency patients who need transport to a nursing home or from a hospital to a residence, freeing up the emergency ambulances to take care of any major issues.

Sharp anticipates these pilot programs will have a major impact on response time numbers, but he wishes the initiatives could started earlier.

"This is something we should have done 20 years ago," he said. "The paramedics have these skills, and in some cases they weren't able to utilize them. Seconds can make a difference in an emergency."

Sharp added that the pilot programs are very expensive, and taxpayers will have to decide if they're worth the added expense in the future.

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