After a very poor report on response time for first responders last year, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has announced plans for cutting response times for basic life-support situations nearly in half and those for advanced life support by more than a third from their dismal rates recorded last year. The plans came from a task force charged with improving the city’s emergency medical response.
If the mayor succeeds in hitting those targets this year, the city will come into compliance with the standards of the National Fire Protection Association. The administration unveiled the new targets along with new reporting standards during a committee meeting of the City Council on Wednesday.
In December, Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher reported that the city’s emergency response system was not meeting industry standards. The audit found that the city’s basic life-support response, the responsibility of firefighters, occurred within 10 minutes and 29 seconds 90 percent of the time after an emergency call was answered. The National Fire Protection Association recommends a response within 6 minutes and 30 seconds 90 percent of the time.
The city’s advanced life-support response, the responsibility of paramedics at Denver Health Medical Center, occurred within 15 minutes and 48 seconds 90 percent of the time after an emergency call was answered. The NFPA recommends the response occur within 10 minutes and 30 seconds 90 percent of the time.
By November, the city plans to start meeting the NFPA targets. A monitoring group will make quarterly reports measuring performance, she said.
The city’s emergency response has been a hot political issue over the past year. Councilman Michael Hancock has been especially critical, questioning whether the city was adequately responding to emergencies at Denver International Airport and in growing neighborhoods such as Green Valley Ranch, both in his district.
The city has deployed an ambulance to the airport this year to help quell some of the concerns. Hancock applauded the mayor’s suggested reforms Wednesday and said the system was “light-years” ahead of where it was last year.
Many of the improvements will come at the front end by streamlining how the city answers emergency calls and by eliminating redundancies. The city plans to buy a computer program that will help automate how workers handle emergency calls. Currently, they rely on index cards to query people calling for help, hardly state-of-the-art response technology.