City Paper Widget

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fire Chief Touts Improved Response Times, New Ambulances

Fire Department ambulance response times are down. There will soon be a fleet of new ambulances.

Those were the messages from DC Fire Chief Kenneth R. Ellerbe brought to the meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on September 5. The meeting was held at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets NW).

Response times

Chart distributed by DC Fire Department
Ellerbe came prepared with a presentation that showed that average response time for ambulances at critical medical calls has improved by more than 15 percent between February and July of this year. The improvement shaves more than a minute off the average time, from 7 minutes 49 seconds in February to 6 minutes and 35 seconds in July. During this same period, the average number of responses increased by more than ten percent, from 170 to 189 per day.

Ellerbe also presented evidence of falling average response times for first arriving Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) at critical medical calls, again by one minute (more than 20%) between February and July.

The new fleet

Ellerbe brought evidence to the meeting that the DC Fire Department had ordered 30 ambulances this year. As of the meeting, six had been delivered, at a cost of $179,000. Information distributed at the meeting indicated that the city will take delivery of an additional seven units in September, four in October, seven in November, and six in December.

The purchase of new ambulances, Ellerbe said, had been hung up in the City Council for a long period, and then the losing vendor challenged the purchasing decision in court. This caused DC to go a long period without purchasing any new ambulances.

Hard times for the department

The DC Fire Department has recently suffered a series of embarrassments and high profile failures, like a DC ambulance in a Presidential motorcade running out of gas. Ellerbe said units are required to fill their tanks before each shift, and this incident was inexcusable.

"For a unit to run out of fuel, that's one of the biggest crimes," he said.

In another recent set of incidents, two ambulances were reported to have caught fire on the same day. In response to a question from a member of the public, Ellerbe disputed that two ambulances had caught fire. He said that only one had caught fire; the other had steamed when coolant liquid was poured on a hot engine.

In conclusion, Ellerbe said, "Most of our employees are extremely dedicated and committed. I commend the Department for continuing to move forward."

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