Dougherty emergency response times a mixed bag - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

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Dougherty emergency response times a mixed bag

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July 5, 2007

Albany -- When you call 911, every second counts. Chief James Carswell said "a fire will double in intensity for every moment it burns."

How quickly help arrives could mean the difference between life or death. EMS Director Bobby Tripp said "for every minute that we are delayed, someone in cardiac arrest has a ten percent less chance of survival."

When the 911 operator answers, the clocks starts. They determine your need and urgency and rate the emergency.

Priority One would be a dangerous crime in progress, a fire, a potentially fatal health problem. A call of less urgency, like a noise complaint gets a lower priority. The 911 operator then relays that information to emergency responders. They're timed on how long it takes them to arrive where help is needed.

 In March, the Albany Fire Department's average response to priority one dispatches was four minutes, 46 seconds. The maximum it took to respond that month to a priority one dispatch was 16 minutes and 17 seconds.

For all calls, the average time from the call to arrival was 5 minutes and 41 seconds. Carswell said "any delay in getting to the scene relates to more damage and possibly loss of life.."

 In April and May the Fire Department's average response times stayed much the same, averaging 5 minutes and 30 seconds. That compares well to other agencies. The Valdosta Fire Department reports their overall response time from January to June as 3 minutes and 57 seconds.

 In March April and May it took ambulances in Dougherty County an average of six minutes and 32 seconds to reach Priority One calls. EMS officials say scheduled non-emergency ambulance calls are lumped into that total time, slowing that response time. Valdosta EMS reports their average time to respond for May was seven minutes. Tripp said "We think our response time is good, and we work hard at it."

Police calls take longer to dispatch, and officials say city growth is one factor in their response times. The Albany Police Department's priority one response time In March was on average 7 minutes and 48 seconds. From call start to arrival 12 minutes and 23 seconds on average.  That's almost three minutes more than the same numbers in 1998.

The average call to arrival time for all APD calls in March was 17 minutes and 34 seconds. Police officials say they consider the officer and community safety while answering a emergency call. Albany Police Lt. Kenn Singleton said " if they can't arrive safely, then that means they are not able to assist the motorist or the citizen.".

The Dougherty County Police , with fewer officers and a much larger territory, have a priority one average from call start to arrival of 10 minutes and 26 seconds in March. With a 15 minute and 51 seconds overall average. That is also slower than in 1998.

Chief Don Cheek says he has Lieutenants, Captains and Detectives answering  calls when needed to improve those response times. Cheek said "We take our service to the citizens very seriously, and we will not let calls go unanswered."

All the Dougherty County emergency agencies say they keep track of response times, and work everyday to improve them.

 Taxpayers spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on fire, EMS stations, and Police Community Centers and beat coordination's, so that emergency responders are closer throughout the county when your call for help comes in.

Albany Police are studying city growth and their response times according to their beat assignments, considering changes in beat coordination for improvements.

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