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CRS to staff ambulance at station downtown

July 09, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Downtown residents in need of emergency medical attention will for the next month or two be only blocks away, in many cases, from the responding ambulance.

A Community Rescue Service official said that keeping an ambulance and people to staff it at the Antietam Fire Co. station on Summit Avenue, closer to downtown and the West End, is literally a matter of life and death.

CRS Assistant Chief David Hays said an ambulance will be kept at the Summit Avenue station as part of a 30- to 60-day trial to study the response time to calls between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.

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Hays said CRS intends to permanently place a staffed ambulance at a location downtown in the near future, pending the results of the study.

Hays said the trial was established because of the difficulty in responding from the CRS Eastern Boulevard headquarters to emergency calls in the heart of the city and the West End.

"With an increasing call load and downtown traffic congestion, it makes it difficult and sometimes hazardous to get across town," Hays said. "Imagine trying to get through that quickly at 4 p.m. It's pretty much mayhem."

Hays said the point of keeping a staffed ambulance near the downtown area is to increase safety for city residents. He said the move is expected to cut three or four minutes off the average response time and more than five minutes off response time during rush hour.

"In a cardiac arrest situation, five minutes is the difference between life and death," Hays said.

Prior to July, CRS operated two staffed ambulances from its Eastern Boulevard headquarters and one from a substation in Maugansville. All three will continue to operate, Hays said.

Implementing a change that would provide for a fourth staffed ambulance will cost CRS about $240,000 a year, mostly in payroll costs, Hays said.

The CRS budget for the 2004-05 fiscal year included money for operation of the fourth unit. The budget was passed by the CRS board of directors on June 23.

Hays said he did not know what location would be used as a long-term home for the ambulance.

He said that as with the trial period, permanent operation would have to be approved by the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association and the Washington County Commissioners.

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