County lawmakers explore options to improve ambulance response times

Jul 22, 2016

There are no imminent proposals in place, but members of the Erie County Legislature discussed Thursday some "what ifs" that they hope may ease the strain on local ambulance fleets and improve their overall response times in critical cases.

The Erie County Legislature's Public Safety Committee discussed concerns Thursday about its emergency response system and ambulance response times. Lawmakers wanted to know whether county resources are being utilized as best as possible, and whether there might be room for centralization of some services, including ambulance dispatch.

Erie County Commissioner of Emergency Management Dan Neaverth, Jr. (second from left, in blue shirt) speaks to members of the Erie County Legislature's Public Safety Committee on Thursday.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Erie County dispatches 911 calls in the City of Buffalo to Rural Metro, the ambulance company which in recent weeks was criticized by Buffalo city leaders for not meeting response times for critical cases required under their contract.

Speaking before the committee Thursday, Erie County Department of Emeregency Management Commissioner Dan Neaverth, Jr. pointed out that dispatchers need to make priority decisions while sending out a finite number of ambulances. 

One question raised during the meeting, which lawmakers say was arranged to gather data on how county resources are being used, was whether it's time for the county to introduce a consolidated, countywide dispatch system.

Legislator and Public Safety Committee chairman Ed Rath said his hope is to have data gathered by early fall so that lawmakers can then begin the process of exploring ideas for improving ambulance response times, while using county resources in the most efficient and successful way possible.