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Paso Robles installs new paramedic squad unit to speed up response to service calls

Posted at 5:52 PM, Mar 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-27 00:03:51-04

In an effort to reduce long response times for calls for service, the City of Paso Robles implemented a new paramedic squad unit Sunday and it’s already saving lives.

“Minutes can mean a life when it comes to medical assistance,” said Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin.

In the face of an emergency, speed is critical and Martin knows help hasn’t been coming fast enough for several years.

“In 2017, 18 percent of the time we had both fire trucks deployed which meant that when a third call came in, there was a big delay and we waited for back up,” Martin said.

Martin said more than 700 of the city’s 4,000 calls for service in 2017 came at a time when all available units were busy.

“In the past, we’d rely on outside jurisdictional fire departments, CAL FIRE, for instance, to come into the city and response times would be 12 to 15 minutes,” said Paso Robles Fire Chief Jonathan Stornetta.

The 12 to 15 minute wait time some Paso Robles residents experienced is at least three times the standard four-minute response established by the U.S. Emergency Medical Services, which is also the goal set by the Paso Robles City Council.

“Currently, we’re achieving that 38 percent of the time,” Stornetta said.

A problem with potentially deadly consequences is now being answered with a new paramedic squad.

The unit is being funded for in part by a $1.5 million state grant called SAFER, which makes up two-thirds of the cost. The other third is being paid for by the city from its general fund, Martin said.

The squad unit will always be staffed, Stornetta said, with one engineer and one firefighter, including at least one trained paramedic.

The six new crew members, who just graduated training Friday, are also trained in CPR.

Stornetta said the need for CPR is great considering only three percent of cardiac arrest patients transported to the hospital survive in San Luis Obispo County.

This brand new team isn’t wasting time when it comes to saving lives.

“Just yesterday, we had a vegetation fire in the river bed and while all our resources were committed to that fire, the squad was available to handle an additional medical call,” Stornetta said.

“With this unit in effect, we’re able to increase response times by 50 percent within the community and provide a much better chance for those suffering a medical emergency,” Martin said.

The state grant runs out in three years, at which point city leaders must decide whether they intend to foot the bill.