Frequently Asked Questions
- Why do fire engines respond to emergency medical calls?
- I don't have insurance/my insurance only covers a portion of my ambulance bill/my insurance doesn't cover my ambulance bill. Do you offer discounts?
- How can pay my ambulance bill with a credit card or electronic check?
- I need an ambulance to stand-by for an event I’m having. What are the rates and how do I make arrangements?
The answer is quality of care and efficiency of service!
When firefighters go to work, people's lives can change forever. They could be having one of the worst days of their life. None of us wants to think about a loved one not coming home. Every 9-1-1 call affects a firefighter in the course of their daily work, whether it's a child drowning, someone's home burning to the ground or a traffic collision in an intersection. Our challenge as an organization is to provide critical emergency service to our community and ensure our firefighters come home safely from every shift.
We operate around two basic cycles. The first is the cycle of fire: heat, fuel and oxygen cycle continuously while a fire burns. Firefighters are trained to break this cycle at any of these three points. This is why we use water; it takes away heat and puts out the fire. The second cycle is the cycle of life: the heart, lungs and brain work continuously to sustain life. When that cycle is broken due to illness or injury, firefighters are trained to keep this cycle going in an effort to save a life, like performing CPR. One cycle disconnected, one cycle reconnected - both in an effort to save lives, both within a critical four minutes.
Fire engines are sent to medical emergencies for one of two reasons:
- The severity of the medical emergency requires more personnel than the assigned medic unit can provide; or
- The closest medic unit is not available and the closest fire engine is sent with the next closet available medic unit in order to arrive at the scene of the emergency as quickly as possible.
Fire and Medical departments nationwide are expected to deliver fast and effective service once they arrive. This requires us to target a response that is accurate based on previous task analysis of what medical procedures must be performed upon our arrival.
When a resident calls 9-1-1 for an ambulance, a medically trained emergency dispatcher must quickly answer and establish a conversation with the caller in order to classify the severity of the medical problem. This time sensitive phone conversation involves one trained dispatcher and one un-trained citizen, generally under a high level of stress. The goal of this phone conversation is to, within seconds; match the identified medical problem with the correct medical response to provide care.
No one truly knows how severe the emergency call really is until they arrive on the scene. For your safety and survival, we work from a premise that it's better to be safe and send apparatus than sorry that we don't have the personnel on scene to take care of you. A medic unit is staffed with a paramedic and emergency medical technician. This staffing allows a medic unit to handle a majority of the routine medical calls with no assistance. Depending on the severity, a fire engine with a medically trained crew is sent to provide needed assistance to the medics on the ambulance. The medics on the fire engine help reduce the time it takes to assess a patient and prepare them for transport to a medical facility. They also provide a level of safety for the personnel on the ambulance and the patient by assisting with removal of patients in tight quarters or large patients. The fire engine often remains on the scene for assistance, but is available to respond to another emergency if another emergency call comes in.
All our personnel are cross trained and generally switch between riding a fire engine and a medic unit on a regular basis. The fire engine crew can provide a similar level of care as the ambulance, with the exception of transport. Many times, given the call volume for our department, simultaneous calls may be received which means that our ambulances are committed to a medical emergency. In these situations, one of our fire apparatus can arrive more quickly to begin life saving care. When a life-threatening condition occurs, such as sudden cardiac arrest or severe allergic reaction, minutes, even seconds make the difference. The fire engine crew can respond and begin treatment to prepare the patient for transportation before an ambulance arrives. The medics on the fire engine are capable of completing these tasks because of the equipment in place on each fire engine.
The option of stripping firefighters off fire engines and taking an alternate vehicle, on a regular basis, to supplement medical calls will ultimately lead to a delay in service when a fire call is received as well as delaying response to a medical emergency while transferring necessary protective clothing and gear to another response vehicle. Fire engines are not static; they move throughout the community on a regular basis and at all times must be necessary to respond with an adequate crew to safely handle a fire incident.
Growth forces all of us in the emergency response business to look at the way we serve our citizens. Does our current emergency response model line up with the needs and expectations of the community? Do our performance indicators give us a sense of how to make necessary improvements? No public safety employee can ever be too confident with our current model of response. Listening to feedback and avoiding agendas are skills that are crucial to ensure the needs of our community are being met. Lawrence is a modern cosmopolitan city with varied levels of diversity. Our challenge is to meet that diversity - externally with our response and internally as an organization. Our "cradle to grave" service defines our response which reflects the needs of our community. We must continue to meet those needs.
I don't have insurance/my insurance only covers a portion of my ambulance bill/my insurance doesn't cover my ambulance bill. Do you offer discounts?
Unfortunately, due to operating costs, we cannot offer discounts on ambulance bills. However, we are sensitive to the various financial situations of those we treat, and we're willing to work with you to set up an interest-free monthly payment plan. Please contact our Medical Billing Specialist at (785) 830-7040 to learn more about payment plans.
Visit our Electronic Payments page for more information.
I need an ambulance to stand-by for an event I’m having. What are the rates and how do I make arrangements?
City Ordinance 8312/County Resolution 08-28 sets ambulance stand-by fees at actual cost plus a 10% administrative fee. Actual cost is the hourly rate and benefits of the employees staffing the ambulance. The minimum staffing for an ambulance is two employees, one of whom must be a licensed paramedic. In 2009, the average charged cost of stand-by was $109 per hour; however, your charges may be greater or lesser depending on the specific individuals staffing the stand-by.To make arrangements for a stand-by or for additional questions, please contact Division Chief Eve Tolefree at (785) 830-7009.