Critical delays

Town of Crawford reports long EMS response times


Crawford’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) response times are longer than the ideal time, a statistic that Orange County Legislature Rob Sassi said puts residents at risk.

“It’s critical for the Town of Crawford, which is a rural area. We don’t have proper service, and it needs to be addressed,” Sassi said.

According to the Orange County EMS Summit report, Basic Life Support (BLS), or non-life-threatening calls, took an average of 15 minutes and 20 seconds for Pine Bush EMS.

The Pine Bush EMS responded in an average of 15 minutes and 30 seconds for Advanced Life Support (ALS), or life-threatening calls, and Mobile Life Support Services, Inc. responded in approximately 19 minutes, on average.

Frank Cassanite, Orange County Deputy Commissioner of Emergency Services, said the ideal response time for ALS calls is around eight minutes. According to a 2017 national study published in Jama Surgery, the U.S. median response time for EMS services was six minutes for suburban areas and 13 minutes for rural areas.

Cassanite said for BLS calls, Pine Bush Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is dispatched first. If there is no response within four minutes, the call goes to mutual aid, which for Crawford is Mobile Life. For ALS calls, Pine Bush EMS and Mobile Life Support are dispatched simultaneously.

A private volunteer service funded by insurance, Pine Bush EMS provides only BLS services.
Mobile Life, a for-profit company, provides ALS and BLS services, and has a station in the Town of Montgomery that provides support to Crawford.

Town Supervisor Charles Carnes said the Pine Bush EMS does have difficulty recruiting volunteers, and the EMS staff are often not available. According to the report, 52 percent of 2017 ALS calls were missed by the Pine Bush EMS and 54 percent of BLS calls. This is compared to 11 percent of ALS calls for Mobile Life.

To combat this, Cassanite said a pilot program has been established for Monday through Friday during the daytime for Pine Bush EMS, the Hamlet of Wallkill EMS, and the Shawangunk EMS, in which Mobile Life Support will be dispatched first for calls in that area.

Cassanite said response times in some areas of the county can be longer than others. In response, the Orange County Department of Emergency Services compiled the EMS Summit report, which was reviewed by a committee comprised of several agencies and submitted in the second quarter of 2018. This report was forwarded to all town and city government agencies for their review.

However, New York is municipal home rule state, which means the county can assist but not govern EMS agencies.

The Crawford Police Department also responds to emergency calls and has basic first aid equipment, such as automated external defibrillators and oxygen, and has one officer that is a paramedic/emergency medical technician. However, the police department cannot transport an injured person due to liability issues.

Carnes said his meeting with Mobile Life, Pine Bush Ambulance Corp and the Town of Shawangunk last fall assured him someone would get help in time for life-threatening situations.

However, Carnes said the town board needs to research the issue before taking any action.


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