Dunwoody will be the home to a new DeKalb Fire Rescue Department “rapid response vehicle” as part of the county’s strategy to improve emergency response times in the city and throughout the county.
The trucks are staffed by medically certified firefighters who can treat patients with small or life-threatening injuries while also having some capabilities to fight fires.
The new truck will be located at Fire Station 21 at 1020 Crown Pointe Parkway in Perimeter Center. Another unit was recently located in Panthersville in south DeKalb. There are three other rapid response vehicles currently stationed in the county.
The rapid response vehicles are painted bright red and look like large pickup trucks with a hard-shell cap covering the bed. The trucks include water and pumping capabilities, emergency response equipment and medical supplies. The trucks are staffed by firefighters who are emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or paramedics who can treat those suffering life-threatening injuries with major bleeding.
Because a rapid response truck is much smaller size than a fire engine, it can maneuver quicker through traffic to respond emergency calls.
“DeKalb County has structured a strong countywide ambulance transport service system,” said DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond in a press release. “Our firefighters are often the first on the scene, and the most critical point of emergency response is how quickly first responders can initiate life-saving care and stabilize patients.”
Stationing the unit in Dunwoody is in part DeKalb’s response to the city’s ongoing complaints about the contracted ambulance service American Medical Response consistently failing to respond to emergency calls within 9 minutes.
Besides Station 21, Dunwoody has a Fire Station 18 at 4588 Barclay Drive and Fire Station 12 at 5323 Roberts Drive. AMR ambulances are located at each of these stations and an additional ambulance serves Perimeter Center during peak hours on weekdays. These ambulances were located in the city as part of a memorandum of understanding between the city and the county.
DeKalb implemented a “First-on-the-Scene Model of Care” in January, a new strategy that uses medically trained fire personnel, including EMTs and paramedics, to stabilize patients while waiting for an ambulance, according to county officials.
DeKalb Fire Chief Darnell Fullum has said that firefighters can provide the same level of care and have the same equipment and resources as an ambulance. However, only ambulances can transport a patient to a hospital or other medical facility.
The county recently purchased 10 rapid response vehicles for $2 million with money from the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in 2017. The remaining five vehicles are scheduled to be stationed throughout the county by the end of the year.
The units were added after a year-long pilot program during which response times, maintenance and operation costs were reduced, according to the county.
Each vehicle cost approximately $200,000, which includes the truck, upgrades and equipment, according to a press release.