LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett's fire and ambulance response times are slipping, Chief Bill Myers said Thursday.
Firefighters are reaching scenes within six minutes and 30 seconds 71 percent of the time this year, as opposed to nearly 85 percent of the time a year ago
"There is one reason for that: dynamic call volume and static resources," Myers said during a presentation to a budget review team, while pushing for a long-awaited 31st fire station in Gwinnett.
For giving advanced life support within eight minutes, the number has dipped from 71 percent to just under 67 percent of the time. And ambulances are trending away from from the 30-minute American Heart Association standard to get people to the hospital when they are experiencing chest pains. So far this year, the trip is taking an average of 34.87 minutes, two and a half minutes longer than in 2011.
Part of the problem, Myers said, is the over-utilization rate of ambulances, which means that often a unit has to travel from a farther location to reach a patient.
Plus, the need for a patient to be transported to the hospital has increased, the chief said, which could continue to trend upward because of the aging demographics in Gwinnett.
In the past, the county has kept up with the growth by adding stations or units, working to improve the time it takes to switch out apparatus, adding fire trucks to the Fire Academy and other methods, but with limited resources due to the economic downturn, there is little left to try, he said.
That's why Myers has asked officials to move forward with the building of Gwinnett's 31st fire station.
The land, located across from Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, was purchased years ago, as were the trucks. And county sales tax funds have been sitting in the bank for the construction of the new station, as well as a relocation of Fire Station 10 to spread out the coverage area.
The station likely would not open until early 2014, but Myers said the additional personnel needed to man the station's fire engine, ladder truck and ambulance would add about $2.7 million onto the department's budget each year.
"We're not going to be able to completely stop the growth (in calls)," he said, adding that education and enforcement of codes have slowed the volume increase in the areas of apartment fires and water-related incidents. "We do need to increase our capacity."