SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Hopefully you won't need an ambulance this holiday weekend, but if you do, help may be on the way faster than ever before in Savannah.
Southside Fire has launched a new "flexible deployment" model for its EMS crews that's proving to be a win-win for them and for you.
They've closed two EMS stations and transitioned the five ambulances that were based out of those buildings onto strategic street corners throughout Savannah.
Having those ambulances closer to where they're needed not only saves money, it saves precious time.
"The response time if you're sitting on a street corner with the engine running, is this --shifting into gear - and you're in route," said Southside Fire/EMS CEO Chuck Kearns.
Southside launched the new model about a month ago, and so far it's shaved off an average of three minutes per EMS call for those units, which is crucial when responding to serious calls like a heart attack.
"The thing is that every minute counts, and every delay could potentially be a loss of life, and we don't want that," said Alan Torrescano, paramedic for Southside Fire/EMS.
Plus, having ambulances stationed on the streets increases visibility in the community.
"People will walk up to us and say, 'I need help or someone over here needs help.' Or sometimes we'll see an incident unfold directly in front of us," said Timothy Turner, EMT for Southside Fire/EMS.
Moving the ambulances from stations onto street corners will save the department $70,000 a year. Money the CEO says can be invested in new equipment, truck maintenance and salary increases.
"It's kind of a win-win, and it's intuitive on the surface. It makes sense, it's logical," said Kearns.
This new model also shifts from one crew working a 24-hour shift to two crews working 12-hour shifts. Not only has that added about a dozen more jobs without affecting salaries, it's also meant a lot for the EMS crews outside of work.
"Family time is very, very important, especially in this field -- mental health. So it gives me a chance to spend time with my children and my family, and I'm off for a couple days and I see an ambulance ride by with the lights on, and I'm like, 'Hey, I'm ready to go back to work.' It makes me actually have the ability to come back to work and not be overwhelmed or beat-up, or stressed out," said Niweh Burroughs, paramedic for Southside Fire/EMS.
Southside doesn't plan on rolling out the mobile, street-corner model for all of their EMS units. There are still places like Bloomingdale and Tybee Island where it wouldn't be efficient. But the goal is to expand the model over time where it makes sense.