Ambulance response leveling off

The disparity in ambulance response times between different parts of The City is improving as the Fire Department strategically places its resources where there have been longer waits.

A report released Friday shows that only two of the 10 battalions are lagging behind the 10-minute goal for non-life-threatening responses.

The report did not include average times for the life-or-death emergency calls, in which responders aim to arrive in less than
6½ minutes.

The Fire Department has been working to improve response times while balancing budget cuts and geographical issues. The southern neighborhoods of The City have lagged minutes behind the denser northern neighborhoods for ambulance response. Those parts encompass larger areas that require longer travel distances and also have a number of roadway impediments, including a high number of traffic signals.

In response, the Fire Department has been using “dynamic deployment,” according to Deputy Chief Pat Gardner, head of operations. Ambulances are not just placed at fire stations, but are placed around The City in a way that everyone will receive the same, swift attention when there’s a medical emergency.

The Ingleside district continues to show the longest response times, with ambulances responding to non-emergency calls on average within 10 minutes, 38 seconds, between November and January. During the same time period, ambulances in the area of the Tenderloin and surrounding area responded in less than 7 minutes, 20 seconds.

Fire Commission member Victor Makras has called for the periodic reports in an effort to make ambulance response times the same throughout San Francisco. He said the latest numbers show a significant change from six months ago.

“In principal it shows improvement, but it still shows a disparity in the southern part of town,” Makras said.

Ambulance service is changing significantly in San Francisco. The City’s Emergency Medical Services Agency is working with the Health Department, fire and private ambulances to craft a comprehensive agreement for medical transportation.

Those negotiations heated up recently with a proposal that The City charge private ambulance companies a fee when the Fire Department responds but does not collect the transport fee from the patient.


Response times

The City has a 10-minute goal for non-emergency response times. Average response times for selected batallion areas between Nov. 19-Jan. 25:

Minutes    Area
7:20    Tenderloin
7:52    USF, Panhandle
10:22    SFSU, Sunset
10:38    Ingleside
8:58    Citywide average

*Source: Fire Department

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