In an effort to reduce emergency response times for Houston residents and surrounding areas, the Houston Volunteer Fire Company has added a new ambulance that will begin service next week.
The $237,000, 2013 Horton ambulance will be unveiled on Dec. 26, after five years of planning and assessment spearheaded by EMS chairmen Robert Scott and Billy Baker.
With approximately 29,000 EMS calls in Kent County every year, Scott said the need for EMS services in the area has grown not only for Houston, but surrounding cities and towns, like Milford and Harrington, who may also benefit from an additional ambulance.
“Time is the biggest obstacle that the fire service has and with us having an ambulance right in Houston and personnel at the station 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s a life-saving measure for the community because you’re cutting off the time of response,” Scott said. “It means quicker service, more depth to the service and quicker life-saving procedures.”
Scott said that when the new ambulance begins responding to 911 dispatches on Jan. 1, the Houston Volunteer Fire Company will simply add to the EMS system of Kent County and will be available for any 911 calls, from headaches to heart attacks.
The Houston Volunteer Fire Company is only one of a handful of fire services in Kent County that was not equipped with an ambulance. The Houston Volunteer Fire Company, which was established in 1926, added a medical response unit in 1996 and Scott said the company is now in the position to add the additional resources of an ambulance and EMS staff.
With the addition of the ambulance, Scott said the fire company will also add about 24 EMS staff as well.
The funding for the purchase of the ambulance came from the fire company’s savings, and the cost of operating the ambulance and adding new staff will come from fundraisers until the company can finalize appropriations from the state and county to offset those costs.
But despite the need for funding, Baker said that the main focus of adding the ambulance has always been the residents of Houston.
“Our main focus was to provide a better service and better response time for our residents,” Baker said. “As time goes on, we’ll put in for appropriations or funding for the ambulance and we’ll probably get that.”
Currently, Baker explained that the company will be able to recoup only about 40 percent of what is billed through insurance companies. The remaining cost of the service will currently be supplemented by fundraising and savings.
“In the EMS world, this will cut down on what they call the ‘golden hour.’ If you’re having an active heart attack, from the time you call, that hour starts clicking backwards, so the quicker we can get you to the hospital, the better chance you have of surviving. We just think that’s what it’s all about – providing the community with a better service and cutting down on that golden hour any way we can.”