By Bryan Scott
Across our nation one essential service that government provides is responding to calls for help. Taxes are paid with the expectation that a reasonable response will be provided when members of the public need the police, the fire department, or emergency medical assistance.
Across our nation the first response to a 9-1-1 call is usually the police or fire department. The arrival of this first responder means that someone trained to handle a crisis is taking charge of the situation, be it a crime, a fire, or a medical emergency.
The time for this initial response is typically three-to-five minutes. The City of Brentwood specifies a response time goal of three-to-five minutes for all emergency calls in their General Plan. Service models everywhere include this goal.
In East County, it is intended that East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) provide the first response for medical emergencies. The May, 2017, ECCFPD 90% Response Time was 10 minutes 26 seconds for Brentwood West, and 9 minutes and 53 seconds for Brentwood East.
In cases where necessary follow-up assistance arrives later, once the first responders have assessed the situation, and perhaps stabilized it.
When the need is for emergency medical service this secondary response is an ambulance from a private business. Contra Costa County provides this ambulance service for most parts of the county, including the service area of ECCFPD.
By contract this business, American Medical Response (AMR), has agreed to response time goals. For the service area of ECCFPD (except Bethel Island) the contract states that an ambulance must be onsite for Priority 1 (Potentially Life-Threatening) Emergencies within 11 minutes and 45 seconds.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is an international standards organization that has developed response time standards for fire and emergency medical response organizations.
In the NFPA 1710 standard describing a fire district’s response to a medical emergency it says that, at a minimum, the fire district must be able to “… arrive within a four-minute (240 seconds) response time to 90 percent of all emergency medical incidents.”
This applies to the fire district whether they provide a fundamental First Responder (AED) trained staff or Basic Life Support (BLS) trained staff.
The NFPA 1710 standard describes the same response time for fire calls, “the fire department shall establish a time objective of four minutes (240 seconds) or less for the arrival of the first arriving engine company at a fire suppression incident, …”.
This public safety response model works when there is a first response in the four-to-five minute range, and a secondary response at 11 minutes and 45 seconds.
The response model does not work when both first and secondary responses arrive at the same time, or within a minute of each other.
Last month Brentwood residents needed to call 9-1-1 for help 338 times.
In the Brentwood West area the response time was 1,190 minutes longer than the nationwide goal, using the 90% response time numbers. Collectively that’s nearly 20 hours late in one month.
For Brentwood East the response time was 900 minutes longer than the nationwide goal, using the same 90% response time numbers. In this aggregate case help arrived 15 hours late in a single month.
As with the financial investment disclaimers we see, these numbers are averages and may not reflect your individual performance, or the time it takes for you to get help, should you need it.
This public safety response model is plainly broken. Government needs to take action to fix it.
Bryan Scott is a Brentwood resident and Co-Chair of East County Voters for Equal Protection, a non-partisan citizens action committee whose aim is to improve funding for the ECCFPD. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 925-418-4428. The group’s Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/.