Text Resize

-A +A
Bookmark and Share

D.C. Ambulances, Personnel Arriving More Quickly to Critical Medical Calls, FEMS Chief Ellerbe Says

Friday, August 2, 2013

D.C. Ambulances, Personnel Arriving More Quickly to Critical Medical Calls, FEMS Chief Ellerbe Says

Initiatives improve response times across the board

Contact: Timothy J. Wilson (FEMS) (202) 809-2705; timothy.jwilson@dc.gov
              Keith St. Clair (EOM) (202) 724-5349; keith.stclair@dc.gov

(Washington, D.C.) – The District’s ambulances, fire trucks and key personnel are now arriving on the scene more quickly for high-priority medical calls, thanks to a series of steps taken by the department, Fire and EMS Chief Kenneth Ellerbe has announced.

During this March and April, EMS instituted several performance management controls for ambulances and fire trucks, which resulted in dramatic improvement in response times to critical medical calls.

“We started paying greater attention to details to find ways to get people quality medical care more quickly,” Chief Ellerbe said.

The department measures performance by a series of factors called Key Performance Indicators. A number of these track EMS response times to what are classified as “critical medical calls,” designated coded levels “C,” “D” and “E” (on an A-through-E scale, with E being the highest priority). Calls for medical service average nearly 400 a day, with about half of them classified as critical.

On March 8, FEMS management began tracking excessive “chute times” and “response times” on critical medical calls, along with monitoring the availability of ambulances, including “out of service” units.

Chute time is the length of time from when an ambulance or fire truck is dispatched to an emergency call until when the unit begins “continuous travel” to the call location. Response time is the length of time from when an ambulance or fire truck is dispatched to when the unit arrives on location.

On April 10, a Special Order was published defining chute time expectations of 60 seconds for calls dispatched between 7 am and 8 pm and 90 seconds for calls between 8 pm and 7 am. Battalion fire chiefs and EMS supervisors became responsible for monitoring and improving chute times for each company.

A performance goal for the arrival of the first Emergency Medical Technician on the scene for critical medical calls is within 6 minutes, 30 seconds at least 90 percent of the time.

For FYI 2012, the average response time was 4:41, with 84 percent of arrivals occurring within 6:30 or less. By February 2013, the numbers were 5:03 and 81 percent. After the controls were put in place, the numbers for June 2013 had improved to 4:02 with 92 percent of responses occurring within 6:30 or less.

The numbers for first arriving paramedics on the scene: Goal set at arriving for 90 percent of critical calls within 8 minutes or less. For FY 2012, average was 6:07 with 80 percent. By February 2013, the numbers were 6:37 and 76 percent. After controls were in place, the numbers for June 2013 were 5:34 and 84 percent.

The numbers for first arriving transport unit (ambulance or medic unit) on the scene: Goal set at arriving for 90 percent of critical calls within 12 minutes or less. For FY 2012, average was 7:28 with 88 percent. By February 2013, the numbers were 7:49 and 87 percent. After controls were in place, the numbers for June 2013 had improved to 6:41 and 91 percent.

During March, April, May and June, EMS call response performance improved even as the average number of daily responses increased.

“It seems like the front-line personnel have made a commitment, a rededication to helping us improve these times,” Chief Ellerbe said.

“People’s lives depend on us doing our jobs well. And nearly all the time, we are doing our jobs well,” he said. “And where we haven't met our goals, we'll look for opportunities to improve."