City Manager launches investigation into prolonged emergency response times

FLUSHING — At the June 12 Flushing City Council meeting, City Manager Clarence Goodlein informed the council that he will be investigating the causes behind a noticeable increase in local emergency service response times.

Goodlein said that according to initial data he’s collected, the average EMS Tier-1 response times within the city have increased approximately 80 percent from 5 minutes, 43 seconds to 10 minutes, 19 seconds over the past five years. He also said that 16 percent of these calls-for-service were greater than 13 minutes.

“My purpose is to find out what the problem is and come back to city council and have a discussion about what some of the solutions are,” he said. “I think 10 minutes (of emergency response time) is way beyond what it is acceptable.”

According to the American Heart Association, survival decreases about 52 percent for cardiac arrest victims when emergency response times exceed 10 minutes, as compared to response times within a 0-6 minute window.

Based on his discussions with local first responders and Genesee County 911 Emergency Dispatch, Goodlein said that EMS units are frequently unavailable for critical medical (Tier-1) emergencies, or they must respond from long distances that cause delayed response times. He said that while the current preliminary data he’s gathered is helpful, it doesn’t fully explain why the delays are happening.

“The data really doesn’t really address how often these calls are stacked in a cue someplace before dispatch time starts,” he said. “In the next few weeks, we’re going to find out hopefully what response times are so that we can get an accurate understanding of where we are relative to the ability of people who live in the city to access emergency medical services.”

Goodlein said that the investigation is also important to the city since Flushing averages two to three calls for Tier-1 EMS service daily.

Councilman Dane Miller, who voiced support for Goodlein’s investigation, said that more thorough ambulance cleaning procedures might be accounting for some of the recent delays with emergency response times.

“I suspect the (response times) went up a lot last year with COVID,” he said. “There’s a lot more involved to getting an ambulance back in service that you didn’t have to do before the pandemic.”

Goodlein said that he will also look at the structure of EMS service in the area to see if improvements could be made at a county level.

In his written report to council, Goodlein estimated that it will take 45 to 90 days to gather sufficient data for his study.