Highlands residents say ambulances aren’t coming fast enough

Residents disappointed in slow response time

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Residents are concerned after a recent ATV accident in the Savannah Highlands community highlights what they call ongoing slow ambulance response times. Alderman Van Johnson agreed this is not a new worry.

“It’s been a conversation for quite a while,” Alderman Johnson said.

Chatham Emergency Services arrived on the Grayfield Circle scene 16 minutes after the call came through. Chatham EMS said their average time in the Savannah Highlands community is 12 minutes. Other residents at a Monday night Town Hall meeting claim it has taken them even longer to respond to other calls.

“We thought he was having a heart attack. It took 56 minutes for the ambulance to get to our house.”

Others shared their frustrations to social media.

The Savannah Police accident report said the Savannah Fire Department was only dispatched for clean-up. City Manager Rob Hernandez said SFD usually responds to all vehicle accidents. The dispatcher was told ATV by the caller, so they did not notify SFD, despite their Highlands station being less than one mile away.

“We thought we worked those issues out, but we are still hearing about EMS response, the lack of response or not the timely response,” Johnson said.

Chatham EMS responds to the entire county. Despite these reported instances from Savannah Highlands residents, Chief Operating Officer Phil Koster said their department meets the promised standard with the county.

“We will always look for ways to do better to improve within the parameters that we fiscally can," Koster said. "As of overall, were the response times appropriate? Absolutely, its demonstrated month after month by our compliance requirements.”

The city of Savannah and Chatham EMS said they are working on proposed solutions. City Manager Rob Hernandez said Savannah Fire is starting to certify all firefighters with Emergency Medical Technician training. Chatham EMS continues to look for a location to establish a presence in the ever-growing Highlands community.

“We have been quietly looking for a new northern Pooler location as that location area has been growing. We see the writing on the wall that it’s going to take an additional resource.”

Some residents posed the need for a designated ambulance for the Highlands area, but officials with Chatham EMS said it doesn’t work that way. Instead, the ambulances work like a zone defense in a basketball game, shifting into different areas as others respond.

According to Chatham EMS, an ambulance costs upwards of half a million dollars to staff and operate for 24 hours a day. To fund another ambulance to their fleet in the Highlands community, Chatham EMS would need to transport six to eight emergency calls a day.

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