Response Times

When you call 911, what should you expect?

New York Ambulance
New York ambulance Response Times

On August  23rd I was stopped at Riverside and Brown in Spokane Washington.  After being hit by a hit and run delivery van, multiple times, I called  911.   In the attempt to get the license number of the van I followed the van until I lost them at 2nd and Lincoln.  What follows is what the 911 Operator said,   “911 Please Hold” after waiting for about what I believed was 2 minutes, they came on again and said, “911 Whats your emergency”  My response was I am at 2nd and Lincoln, my phone number is 509-638-8828 and then said, I need a Police officer, I have been involved in a Hit and Run Accident. The police officer took about a half hour to respond.

This is not what we should expect from 911. According to USA Today’s article published By Robert Davis, USA TODAY on May 20, 2005, “In post-9/11 America, where war and fears of terrorist attacks have brought the need for effective emergency response into sharp focus, a USA TODAY investigation finds that emergency medical systems in most of the nation’s 50 largest cities are fragmented, inconsistent and slow.
People die needlessly because some cities fail to make basic, often inexpensive changes in the way they deploy ambulances, paramedics and fire trucks. In other cities, where the changes have been made, people in virtually identical circumstances are saved. Those sharp differences surfaced in the 18-month investigation, which included a survey of city medical directors, analyses of dispatch and response data; interviews with fire and ambulance crews and on-site visits and ride-alongs with “first responders.”

The analysis shows:

  • The chance of surviving a dire medical emergency in the USA is a matter of geography. If you collapse from cardiac arrest in Seattle, a 911 call likely will bring instant advice and fast-moving firefighters and paramedics. Collapse in Washington, D.C., and — as one EMS official suggests — someone better call a cab for you. Seattle saves 45% of saveable victims like Rusinek; Washington, D.C., has no idea how many victims like Rusinek it saves. The city estimates it saves 4% of cardiac arrests, but inconsistent record-keeping makes it impossible for Washington to account accurately for its most saveable victims.
  • In the nation’s 50 largest cities, about 9,000 people collapse each year from cardiac arrest caused by a short circuit in the heart. Only an estimated 6% to 10%, or as few as 540, are rescued. If every major city increased its save rate to 20%, as a number of cities have done, a total of 1,800 lives could be saved every year.

Major reasons that emergency services in most U.S. cities are saving so few people in life-or-death situations:

  • Many cities’ emergency services are undermined by their culture. Infighting and turf wars between fire departments and ambulance services cause deadly delays.
  • Most cities don’t measure their performance effectively,if at all. They don’t know how many lives they’re losing, so they can’t determine ways to increase survival rates.
  • Many cities lack the strong leadership needed to improve emergency medical services. Leadership — by the mayor, the city council and community health officials — can make a dramatic difference. Boston, for example, more than doubled its survival rate over 10 years under the direction of a strong mayor who demanded change and enlisted city officials, businesses and many residents in the drive to save lives. (source: