Ambulance housed at fire station strengthens North Central EMS relationship

Cary Ashby • Aug 17, 2019 at 2:45 PM

Housing a North Central EMS/Fisher-Titus ambulance at the Norwalk fire station provides an extra level of protection.

Capt. Rick Perry recently told city council members the training leading up the squad being in service “went pretty well.” He said the operations portion will be fairly easy, but the record-keeping may be more challenging.

The ambulance, known as Norwalk 511, is part of the new three-year agreement between Norwalk and Fisher-Titus Affiliated Services for 24-7 emergency medical services (EMS) and ambulance coverage by North Central EMS. The two entities have worked together to provide services to residents for 33 years.

“We enjoy a positive working relationship with North Central and over the years (we have) developed a ‘tiered response’ system to medical incidents within the city of Norwalk. We are pleased to take our long-standing collaboration to a higher level,” Chief John Soisson said.

Councilman Dave Wallace, who served Norwalk for 16 years as a firefighter, said the citizens will reap the benefit of having an ambulance available at the station.

“And that’s everything,” he added.


Model of service ‘we want’

North Central EMS Director Ashley Ballah said the back-up squad is an important service for residents.

“There can be multiple calls that come in simultaneously and this is our best effort to help keep the costs down for the city, but have the appropriate resources available,” she said. “Although the expectation is that the unit will be used infrequently, having this additional resource might make the difference between life and death for a patient.”

In 2018, North Central made 2,806 emergency runs in Norwalk.

“We are optimistic that this is the model that we want. But of course this is going to be a learning experience as we launch it here and there is always room for improvement and opportunities (when) we will learn,” Ballah said.

Norwalk 511 is available to respond to emergencies when North Central’s two Norwalk ambulances and crews are providing care at other scenes at the same time. North Central has an ambulance garage/station at 42 Woodlawn Ave. 


Improving response time

The ambulance went into service Aug. 1. The used vehicle, with about 150,000 miles on it, essentially was sold to Norwalk, per the new EMS agreement.

“This ambulance is called when there are multiple calls going on at the same time. We are utilizing this ambulance in the same instance that we would have called Citizens (Ambulance) or New London,” Ballah said, referring to Firelands Ambulance Service. “That is how the response time is improved, so rather than coming from Wakeman or New London, it will be coming from within the city.”

Norwalk 511 went on its first — and so far, only — call its first day in service. Perry said the patient arrived at Fisher-Titus Medical Center two minutes quicker than it would have taken a squad from Bellevue.

Ballah was pleased with the response.

“Everything went very smoothly. Everything went best-case scenario for us and we are really proud of how it went,” the North Central director said.

Lt. Charlie Hillman shared his perspective on the necessary training and first call.

“We were prepared for it. I didn’t personally go on the call, but we had the wheels in motion. Everybody was aware … that the potential was there and it just so happened it was the first day. It worked out well,” he said.

“The main issues we saw coming it were how we were going to be notified for calls. The personnel in the fire department are experienced in EMS providers, working in multiple different jurisdictions for a number of different years.

“On the operations part of it, we were more than prepared,” the firefighter added. “But it was the notification procedure of how the ambulance would actually go to the call.”

“The guys (who) have been EMS providers for a number of years understand how to document; it’s just a new system, a new reporting system from what we’re familiar with and some of the challenges of working through that system. The first run was documented and it went fairly well on how we got it all put down on the computer and everything.”


Strengthened partnership

Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan considers the EMS agreement and having an ambulance at the fire station a partnership that “allows for the best quality of service for our city.”

“A lot of credit goes to Chief Soisson who kinda spearheaded it on our end and (Capt.) Brett Beers and Charlie Hillman who worked very closely with him,” he said.

“As always, we are very appreciative of our partnership with Fisher-Titus; they have been great partners with us over the years and we anticipate that continuing. They have worked very hard to put this together and the bottom line, which I think you’ve already heard, is a response time (and) giving the best response time possible to our residents.”

Norwalk 511 further cements the relationship between North Central EMS and the fire department.

“We have definitely found some opportunities to work together and what’s best for the citizens, which is at the end of the day our goal,” Ballah said.

The North Central director was asked what’s it like seeing an ambulance housed in the fire station.

“It’s exciting. I think we are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish and the model that we have created,” she said.