Pick one

“Unit whatever to radio.”

“Whatever, go ahead.”

“Yeah, we need a second unit out here for an additional patient at this MVC.”

“Do you need that other unit emergency or non-emergency?”

“That depends. Where are they coming from?”

Wrong answer.

Distance has virtually no bearing on how an ambulance should respond. I don’t care about response times, and I don’t care about the company meeting their response time goals. Your patient can either a) wait just a little while to go to the hospital, because they aren’t dying right now, or, b) needs to go to the hospital five minutes ago, and you can’t take them.

Pick one. 90 percent of our emergent responses are bullshit anyways.


  1. Flash Larry says:

    “Unit 220 available from South End Regional Hospital.”
    “Unit 220, start emergency for North End Regional Hospital.”
    “Radio, we’re responding emergency to a hospital?”
    “Unit 220, yes, we have a transfer. You’re responding for times.” (that is, to get there quicker to do the non-emergency transfer)

    “Unit 221, start for the Far Southwest Road in Adjacent County, emergency.”
    “Radio, do you know where we’re responding from? That’s at least 45 minutes using lights and sirens.”
    “Yes, it’s a referral from another service.”

    If they can wait 45 minutes for an ambulance, it’s not an emergency.

    • Ah. So I see that you still work for a service that a) thinks lights and sirens matter when it comes to response times, and, b) thinks you care about their response times.

      • Flash Larry says:

        Well, I’m not convinced that an emergency response is always unwarranted, but it would be good if there were a way of triaging calls so that a determination can be made as to the appropriate level of the response. There certainly is a subset of calls where time of the essence. However, the assessment of response level is dependent on intelligent, capable and well managed dispatchers, and they are few and far between.

        The first call that I listed above was a few years ago, the other one more recently.

        The problem is that some of the company policies about how calls are dispatched and managed are completely at odds with either the fastest response times or the best deployment of resources. But that’s another discussion.

        In general, I think that EMS management almost across the board is poor, illogical, and unrealistic.

        For instance, IF you believe that an emergency response is warranted, and you set a response time goal that you want units to meet, but you deploy units in such a way that their response distance is extended, and then make a rule that they can’t exceed the speed limit more than 10mph (even on a freeway), then you have created policies that mitigate against making your response time goal. And then you blame the crews. Or, reward those who make a certain percentage, not realizing that it is completely by chance that they’ve been able to do so.

        And I do love the “do not exceed the speed limit under any circumstances on a non-emergency call” vs. the dispatch admonition to “rush this call as much as possible.”

        And of course, there’s the ubiquitous “ETA. I’m sitting in traffic, dispatched across the city in heavy traffic, and the question “ETA?” I have no idea. I just respond with my location and traffic conditions.

        • I know that this will shock you (not), but response time goals are set by some magical, mystical formula based on cardiac arrest survival and fire response. Along with a huge dose of politics. Almost every complaint that my service fielded had to do with response times. That’s all politicians and the public care about.
          You could saw the patient in half to count the rings and no one would complain as long as you got there fast.
          It’s why the FD is sent on so many calls even though they do little to nothing to help the patient and arguably much of that they do is harmful.
          It gives the appearance that someone is doing something when they are in fact doing nothing.

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