Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rightsizing emergency services

Austin Texas motorcycle-based EMS services
Tom Holman is on a small team of paramedics trained to drive one of the EMS motorcycles, which are stocked with supplies such as cardiac defibrillators, bandages, splints and blood pressure monitors. Alberto Martínez /AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

I've mentioned in the past how the merging of emergency medical services and fire departments is often more about maintaining employment levels for fire fighters and that for cost reasons it's better to develop the right service footprint and plan for each service, rather than merge them badly. See "Rationalizing fire and emergency services."

I discovered that there are a number of bicycle-based emergency medical services in the U.S., such as in Los Angeles and Baltimore, and in other countries like the UK. This has come up in terms of London's planning for the Olympics as well, and they are adding more mobile-EMS services in order to be able to be nimble vis-a-vis the expected traffic problems.

Austin Texas has developed motorcycle-based EMS teams for highway service during peak times when the traffic is really bad. See "Medics to ride to the rescue on motorcycles during heavy I-35 traffic" from the Austin American-Statesman. From the article:

Austin-Travis County EMS has been supporting special events with motorcycles for about two years, but this is the first time they have been used for regular duty, paramedic Juan Hinojosa said.

During rush-hour jams on Austin's main artery, ambulances can get stuck in traffic, too. The motorcycles, however, can zip down the median and usually arrive about five minutes before the ambulance, he said.

"Being that it's so congested, it's a lot easier to get initial patient care," Hinojosa said, adding that the medics can also quickly determine whether an ambulance is actually needed, making overall emergency response more efficient.

Hinojosa is one of nine Austin-Travis County EMS paramedics who are trained to drive the motorcycles, which cost between $12,000 and $15,000 each. Three of the bikes were donated, and one was purchased through a grant, Hinojosa said. The cycles — BMW GS 650 GSP police authority models — are stocked with cardiac defibrillators, medications, bandages, splints and blood pressure monitors, among other items.

In DC, the Fire Department is attempting to change the personnel schedule to reduce costs, and of course, the firefighters are against the changes. See "Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe addresses department tensions" from the Washington Post.

It'd be better for the entire department to engage in wide-ranging planning effort first. And a big element of a plan should be how to best deliver emergency services.

Fire trucks are justified as the first responder for medical emergencies because they are "faster." Motorcycles and other smaller equipment can be faster still, and a lot less expensive.



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