Firefighter/Paramedic Cord Smith (right) and FF/EMT Kaleb Moreno prepare the ambulance for the next call for assistance.

National emergency medical systems are experiencing lagging response times. More and more people are seeking help from emergency medical personnel and Highland Township is following the trend.

“Normally every year we see an increase of about three to five percent in runs,” says Highland Township Fire Chief Ken Chapman. “Last year we saw an increase of about 20 to 25 percent.” The department carried out 1,754 races in 2021, compared to a maximum of 1,450 previously.

The Perfect Storm

Between more people spending time at home due to COVID and an increase in the elderly population, Chapman calls it “the perfect storm” of factors that have caused an influx of calls and an increase in the time it takes for the emergency personnel arrive.

Another reason for the slower response time is due to a new Advance Life Support system.

“In August 2020, we transitioned to ALS,” Chapman says. ALS is a step up from Basic Life Support (BLS) and is used to provide crucial and now improved treatment for cardiac emergencies.

“A lot of what they do in emergency rooms, we can now do from your living room,” Chapman shares.

The department provides first response for medical and fire emergencies. The majority of their calls are medical-based EMS rides, responding to conditions such as cardiac arrest and car accidents.

The incoming calls they have faced are sporadic and the department is scattered trying to keep up with demand.

“Some days we will do three races in one day and other days 10 races,” Chapman explains. “There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason as to what time they arrive.”

Response teams take longer to arrive if they are already on the run or if they receive more than one call in a short time. The situation is critical statewide and nationally.

“Recently in Ann Arbor, a cyclist called an Uber after waiting too long for EMS to arrive,” Chapman explained. He was referring to an incident in October 2019 when an injured cyclist gave up after waiting over 20 minutes for EMS to arrive and was instead taken to hospital by an Uber driver.