Residents of a southeastern Durham community asked the county commissioners again this week for elected leaders to improve ambulance response times for their growing population.
A review of 911 calls during the last 18 months reveals an average response time of nearly 15 minutes for emergency calls, with a high of 21 minutes, and 17 minutes for combined emergency and non-emergency calls with a high 27 minutes, said Loretta Woodall, a resident of Carolina Arbors, which is located near Brier Creek.
“These response times are far above the 12 minutes goal and among the worst in the county,” she said.
The community includes about 800 homeowners in the neighborhood that is expected to double in size over the next two years, she said. In addition, there are five communities being built within two miles and three more that have permits but on which construction has not yet started.
In June, representatives of the community presented a petition signed by about 400 people to County Manager Wendell Davis requesting an Emergency Medical Services facility be built nearby. Woodall said she was encouraged by a county study recommending a new EMS facility be built at Leesville and Doc Nichols road within eight years or so, but asked that it be built earlier.
“We ask you to recognize these unacceptable and potentially life-threatening response times,” Woodall said, and that they justify the urgent development of the recommended nearby facility.
The challenges, said EMS Director Skip Kirkwood, include that there is no facility nearby, and there is a natural pull of the existing ambulances toward more densely populated areas.
“We use the satellite data to place an ambulance where it is most likely to be closest to the next call,” he said.
Commissioners have funded increases to EMS for the past two years, but the money didn’t increase capacity, Kirkwood said. Instead it was used to cover employees who are sick and on vacation.
County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow asked whether stationing an ambulance at the nearby Bethesda fire station could address the concerns in the short term.
Kirkwood said that an ambulance is stationed at the station, but it often out roaming the county.
After the conversation, Reckhow asked for a “full report” relating to EMS services.
Davis said he would schedule a discussion on county EMS services at the Feb. 1 work session.