Nueces County E.S.D. #2 (Flour Bluff Fire Department) will commission its first ambulance (M95) today at 9:00 a.m. The $35,000 vehicle, bought with ESD#2 tax dollars, is a fully licensed and accredited vehicle and will be manned by off-duty firefighter/EMT and firefighter paramedics from different agencies in the area, all who fall under the same medical director and medical protocols as the City of Corpus Christi Fire Department. For the primary ambulance to be put into service, a back-up vehicle had to be purchased for an additional $25,000. With the purchase of a stretcher, heart monitor, medical supplies, narcotics, medicine vault, oxygen tanks, radios front and back, a laptop, and various other amenities required by law, the total cost to put the mobile emergency unit on the road came in at around $100,000. What a great gift for the Flour Bluff and Padre Island citizens! At least it could be. As of this writing, it appears that the City of Corpus Christi will only allow the ambulance to answer calls outside of the city limits unless specifically requested by a CCFD officer as per the current mutual aid agreement. This means that the Flour Bluff and Padre Island residents who actually paid for the ambulance with their tax dollars will receive zero benefit until the ongoing legal issues with the city are resolved.
Having M95 in service would have been extremely helpful a few weeks ago when CCFD Medic 13 on Waldron Road in Flour Bluff received a call for a person having chest pains on Yorktown Boulevard, just across the street from the ESD#2 fire station where M95 is housed. Before the city ambulance could pull out of the firehouse, another call came in. This time it was for a child hit by a car. A decision was made to attend to the child first. A second ambulance had to be called from another fire station much farther away to respond to the heart-attack victim. Officials from ESD#2 said that multiple calls in a single response area are common on a weekly – and sometimes daily – basis. While a fire truck may also respond to a medical emergency, only ambulances carry the required narcotics to treat patients suffering a medical emergency.
At the height of the tourist season, the existence of another ambulance in the areas of Flour Bluff and Padre Island could certainly prove to be a welcome gift for all – that is, if the ambulance can be dispatched immediately when needed. In the month of July 2016, 25% of the EMS calls in the Flour Bluff community were answered by a unit other than Medic 13, the unit assigned to the Flour Bluff area. Currently CCFD has eleven ambulances responding to calls throughout the city. In addition, ESD#1 (Annaville) supplies two ambulances. Still, both departments struggle at times to meet the EMS needs of the City of Corpus Christi in the event of multiple calls.
At one point, this fully stocked, licensed, ready-to-roll vehicle was to be used as a “second out” vehicle. That means that regardless of the proximity of the call to the ESD#2 station, a Corpus Christi Fire Department ambulance will be dispatched first. Even if a person gets hit by a car directly in front of the ESD#2 station, Medic 13 will be dispatched from the Waldron Road station three and a half miles away with a school zone and three red lights along the way. Negotiations between ESD#2 and the city have created a roadblock for M95 to be used in the best way for the citizenry, that is to function as Nueces County ESD #1 (Annaville Fire Department) operates.
Annaville FD currently has two ambulances that answer calls within the city limits. The primary Annaville ambulance is a “first out as the closest unit” vehicle, while the other ambulance is second out to a CCFD unit. No one at ESD#2 seems to know why the rules for the Flour Bluff units would not be the same as they are for Annaville. All that ESD#2 Chief Dale Scott has been told by the CCFD is that he must wait on clarification from the city’s legal department about the Flour Bluff unit answering calls within the city limits. In the meantime, many Flour Bluff medical emergencies have to be answered by ambulances responding from as far away as the CCFD stations at Airline and Gollihar, Weber and Saratoga, Kostoryz, or Padre Island.
There are certainly enough 9-1-1 calls coming in to warrant full use of M95. MetroCom, the local 911 dispatch team, serves a population of 340,000 citizens in Nueces County, which includes 302,000 Corpus Christi residents. According to the MetroCom page on the city website, in 1993, “Nueces County commissioned a communications study, which resulted in MetroCom. The study called for a development of a single Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for all 911 emergency calls and dispatch functions within the areas served by the City of Corpus Christi and Nueces County.” On average, the call takers answer 600,000 calls and dispatch 466,000 first-responder vehicles per year. With that many calls, it seems the new ambulance would be viewed as a huge asset for the whole city, especially for the citizens of Flour Bluff and Padre Island, the folks whose tax dollars paid for this additional medic unit. Until the legal issues are worked out with the city, M95 will only be allowed to answer calls in the unincorporated areas of the county, even if the call comes in from the house across the street from the ESD#2 Fire Station where M95 is housed.