City officials explain lagging ambulance response times

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas City officials explained why ambulance response times have lagged in 2012 at a meeting Thursday.

So far in 2012, it takes an average of one minute longer from the time you call 911 until help arrives than the year before in Kansas City, Mo.

It's been more than two years since the Kansas City Fire Department took control of ambulance services from MAST. On Thursday, it was revealed ambulance response times stayed the same throughout the merger until last December.

City auditors and fire department officials insist the time increase is not because of the department change, but a policy change. That added time started when they stopped "pre-alerting" calls -- just like MAST did.

"Pre-alerting" means that as soon as an address is confirmed on a 911 call, help was sent right away. MAST pre-alerted calls because the only thing they could send was an ambulance.

Fire officials argue it's not practical and is actually more dangerous for them to send multiple units to every call immediately before they know what the patient needs because they have so many different units to send, from fire trucks to pumper trucks to ambulances.

"We are never satisfied with where we are," said interim Kansas City fire department chief Paul Berardi. "We consider this a benchmark, and we can look at trends and go up or down. I would also say I'm not satisfied response in all parts of the city."

What parts of the city are suffering?

Right now we don't know because the fire department also lost the ability to see which call came from which part of the city when they changed to a different computer system last December.

That glitch has now been fixed. In the past, response times in the Northland had lagged.

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