Report: Average ambulance response time 1 minute slower in KCMO

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Response times for Kansas City, Mo., ambulances are again under the microscope as a recent audit revealed that the average rate is one minute slower now than it was in Dec. 2011.

At that time, 6th district City Councilman John Sharp, the fire chief and other city emergency officials agreed to change the protocol on when an ambulance is sent.

"They now ask a lot more questions of 911 callers before they dispatch an ambulance," Sharp said.

Callers are now interrogated to determine if there is in fact an emergency.

In retrospect, Sharp, who chairs the city's public safety and emergency services committees, feels it was a bad move.

"I thought it might add 30 seconds not a minute," Sharp said. "If you need an ambulance, go ahead and send the ambulance even if you don't put the lights and sirens on. At least head it in that direction. That way it's at least getting close to the scene, and you aren't delaying the response of the ambulance until you get through 20 questions."

Interim Fire Chief Paul Berardi said the change is a good move for the city, because sending ambulances without knowing if there's really an emergency increases the risk for collisions with other motorists on the road and increases the number of units that need to be called back or rerouted.

In response to the one-minute delay, Berardi said when life-threatening calls are made, help is sent right away.

"We know that cardiac arrest, choking parties, shortness of breath, stroke victims, that information comes in very early on in the interrogation system," Berardi said.

The fire department and city council plan to discuss the audit over the next 60 days.

While Sharp prefers switching back to the preemptive system, Berardi feels the current interrogation system is the safest.

City leaders and the fire department also plan to specify how response times are measured, and then add that specification to the city ordinance.

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