Ambulance takes nine minutes to respond to 911 call on Bardstown Road, two blocks from fire station

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A Louisville ambulance took nine minutes to respond to a 911 call last night, despite a fire station being just 0.2 miles away--a drive Google Maps estimates as one minute for cars under normal conditions (that is, without a siren and the right to go through red lights). I called 911 at 7:16 p.m. yesterday when a man sitting on the curb at Speedway (1101 Bardstown Road) yelled and fell to the ground, grabbing his chest, moving slightly and spitting. An ambulance didn't arrive until 7:25 p.m. though--nine minutes later--while a group of customers and Speedway employees tended to the man. An EMT could have walked the 0.2 miles from the nearest fire station at 1025 Rubel Ave. to the Speedway in less time. And with another fire station located at 1735 Bardstown Road, just 1.2 miles and a two-minute drive straight down the street, there's no excuse for the delay. And when the ambulance did arrive, rather than drive right over to the man, it did a lap around Speedway's parking lot before pulling up next to him. Finally, at 7:25 p.m. EMTs were providing medical care. Around 7:10 p.m. last night I pulled into the Speedway at 1101 Bardstown Road to fuel my wife's car. As I got out of the Passat, I noticed a guy, probably homeless, certainly in discomfort, sitting on the curb in front of me. As I was puttering around with the pump, the man yelled and fell to the ground. I called 911 as other customers and Speedway employees approached him. It was 7:16 p.m. I gave the 911 dispatcher a good description of our whereabouts: the Speedway on Bardstown Road at the intersection of Grinstead Drive, the man to the left of the entrance. She asked for his description. I said something along the lines of a man in his forties or fifties, long hair, beard, probably homeless. At 7:22 p.m., six minutes later, an ambulance still had not arrived and no sirens were audible. Knowing that several fire stations were close enough for an ambulance dispatched immediately to have arrived, I called 911 again. I got the same dispatcher. She verified that she had received my first call and an ambulance was dispatched a minute after we spoke. A few minutes later I heard a siren and saw an ambulance coming northeast up Grinstead Drive. I walked to the entrance to Speedway's parking lot and pointed towards where the man was on the ground. And with several people standing around him, it should have been obvious. But the ambulance drove 270 degrees around the parking lot before pulling up to him. Update, Sept. 21, 11:20 p.m. I submitted a link to this article to the Louisville EMS. Monday afternoon I received this response from Kristen L. Miller, chief of staff, Louisville Metro EMS. While I appreciate Miller's prompt response, I'm concerned: Miller said it took 6:22 for the EMS to arrive on the scene. Based on the times of my calls to 911 (shown above) and the 7:26:19 timestamp on my photo of the EMT getting out of the ambulance (right), it appears the response time was closer to 10 minutes--longer than the recognized standards she cites. Mr. Everson, I wanted to take this opportunity to respond to your post. When you called 911, the MetroSafe 911 Communications Center calltaker used an internationally-validated medical algorithm to collect critical patient information, dispatch the appropriate response resource, and give important guidance on how to assist the patient on-scene until responders arrived. This system, used in more than 3,000 911 communications centers around the world, recommended a Code 2, non-emergency response based on the answers given to the 911 calltaker. Your 911 call was dispatched to the closest appropriate Louisville Metro EMS response unit at 19:18:34. The crew began its response approximately a minute later, and arrived on-scene in six minutes and 22 seconds. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that prehospital medicine providers reach 90% of emergent, life-threatening calls with an advanced life support provider in eight minute or less. Additionally, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) reported in its 2008 200-City Survey that the majority of urban transport EMS systems set eight minutes and 59 seconds as their response time goal. As you can see, even though this particular call involved a non-emergency response, our LMEMS responders beat both of those recognized standards. The ambulance that responded to this call was coming from University Hospital. At the time the call was received, it was the closest appropriate unit to the patient's location. Typically the ambulance stationed at Engine 20 (Bardstown and Maryland) would have responded, however it was on an emergency run at the time of this call. There is no ambulance stationed at Engine 11 (Rubel), and to our knowledge there was not an ambulance stationed there prior to the creation of LMEMS. Resource "stand-by" locations are placed strategically across the community; there is not simply an ambulance at every fire station. In placing these stand-bys, we analyzed several years' worth of 911 emergency medical calls and where they were located across the community. Then, using software that approximates real-time street and driving conditions, we analyzed which potential stand-by locations would allow our resources to reach 80% of those calls in eight minutes or less. We continually revisit the deployment of our resources to those locations to ensure that they continue to optimize our ability to reach the most severely ill or injured patients with the most appropriate resource as quickly as possible. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us at 574-4260. Kristen L. Miller Chief of Staff Louisville Metro EMS (Photo: Zach Everson)
About Zach Everson
I'm the travel news/travel buzz editor at MapQuest. Previously, I was a freelance writer, contributing to The Wall Street Journal, Air Canada's enRoute, USA Today, Condé Nast Traveller, BlackBook, Curbed, Gridskipper, Deadspin, and Fox News. I also was the founding editor of Eater Louisville and the director of content and editorial strategy for Louisville.com.
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