When it comes to getting an ambulance to the scene, no place is faster in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania than Delaware County.

"Out of 67 counties, they showed that Delaware County had the lowest response rate," Pat O'Connell, regional emergency medical services director, said about the county's ranking in a 2018 report issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Bureau of EMS.

Entitled "State Emergency Medical Services Annual Report," the bureau determined that out of all the Pennsylvania counties, Delaware County's emergency medical service providers had the quickest response time, being safely on location at emergencies within six minutes of being dispatched.

O'Connell attributed that to a variety of factors from the bond the community here shares to the network between the 40 EMS agencies and the six hospitals to the training.

He said there are 1,500 EMS providers who responded to close to 60,000 calls last year.

"It's a close-knit community," O'Connell said. "Everybody works together ... It's one of those brotherly love things."

He also noted the relationships between the EMS agencies and the hospital emergency rooms.

"We have networked with them really well," O'Connell said, adding that Delco's EMS also has great relationships with surrounding counties from Chester, Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia.

He added that it's notable that these first responders arrive in minutes safely even with the traffic patterns found here.

"Anybody in Delaware County knows that Route 1 in Middletown and Route 476 northbound and southbound are just a trainwreck with traffic," O'Connell said. "Just the fact that the operators on all the crews get there safely - they get to the calls efficiently and safely which is saying a lot."

Part of that also has to do with the amount of training undertaken by both the emergency service professionals and the medical organization staff.

All this is done, O'Connell said, with very minimal state aid for the county.

He commended the first responders for their ability to "make things work efficiently and effectively for what they have with the resources that they get."

A key component in this link is the dispatcher center at the county 911 center.

There, Emergency Services Director Timothy Boyce explained their role in this chain is to answer the calls efficiently and to have the proper amount of staffing on-hand to take these calls.

"Our goal is to answer on the first ring," he said, adding that during significant events such as severe storms or traffic accidents, other dispatchers and supervisors are trained to answer calls so that they don't sit in the queue long. "They play a critical role."

Boyce explained that dispatchers will send the closest ambulance to a location to reduce the response time.

"We don't let them sit in the firehouse and wait it out," he said.

His staff are also in the process of taking their duties up a notch.

"Every one of our people here will be trained to give advanced medical instructions," Boyce said.

So far, about 40 percent of the staff has undergone the training that helps them instruct callers how to administer CPR or how to use Narcan.

"Our goal is to lean forward and encourage people to provide medical care if we can walk them through it," Boyce said.

By August, he anticipates that the entire 100-member staff in the Emergency Services uniformed division will be certified to provide these medical directions to callers.

"We're always focused on outcomes," he said.

For example, the county earned an "established" rating during a Medical Countermeasures Operational Readiness Review. Earlier last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Health named Delaware County as the only one in the state and the second in the United States to receive this rating for having a repository of vaccines, antibiotics and other medications and equipment needed in the event of a public health emergency or outbreak.


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