May 2, 2014 (San Diego) -- Where you live in the City of San Diego affects how quickly emergency response teams can bring help to you when you need it, according to a report just issued by the 2013/2014 San Diego County Grand Jury.
The report identifies five areas in the city which experience the longest emergency response times: Home Avenue (City Heights), Paradise Hills, the College area, Skyline and Encanto.
The lag in response times is the net result of decades of delay in building new fire stations as the City grew from a relatively small city to a major metropolitan area and by the City's contract with its ambulance provider, Rural/Metro. The contract requires Rural/Metro to respond to all 9-1-1 calls without assessing the nature of the emergency. Only about 15 percent of incoming 9-1-1 calls are real emergencies.
The Grand Jury recommends that the City develop a better protocol for screening emergency calls to separate the serious emergencies from those of a trivial nature. The City should also modify its contract with Rural/Metro to allow more flexibility in its responses to the calls.
In addition, training citizens living in the areas with slow response times in the use of CPR, and placing automatic external defibrillators in many easily accessible public venues would improve outcomes for those in need of medical intervention in those areas. This could be done by the City alone, or in collaboration with non-profit organizations such as the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association, as well as local community colleges offering nursing and other medical training.
The report looked only at the city, not the unincorporated areas of the county or other cities within the region. East County Magazine has learned that the average response time in rural areas is 10 and a half minutes, though some responses have taken much longer – over three hours in the worst-case scenario.
According to the Grand Jury report, elsewhere “most communities have established response standards of eight minutes or less, 90 percent of the time, for Advanced Life Support (ALS) service.”