Fire Dept.: Philadelphia Runs Out of Ambulances Almost Every Day

The city was out of ambulances at two different times on Tuesday.

Philadelphia didn’t have any ambulances available Tuesday afternoon. The Fire Department confirmed to the Daily News that they were out of medic units for 11 minutes. The city was also out of ambulances later in the day when a food truck’s propane tank exploded in Feltonville, injuring 13.

This is, apparently, rather common! “Look, we run out of medics almost every day, especially during the summer on a hot day,” Firefighters union vice president Tim McShea says.




It's all part of a war between Mayor Michael Nutter and the Fire Department, who cannot agree on staffing levels.

The Daily News previously reported that 84 percent of the nearly 300,000 emergencies that the Fire Department responded to in 2012 were medical emergencies. The department has 1,912 firefighters, but only 248 medics.

In March, the Nutter administration sought approval from the Civil Service Commission to begin sending one paramedic and one EMT out on advanced life-support calls, based on recommendations from outside advisers. The city had been sending two paramedics, based on national standards.

The administration argued that the change would lead to more ambulances being available; the union countered that the move was about hiring more EMTs, who make less money.

There doesn't seem to be an end to this. On the plus side, we have been warned in advance that the city will likely run out of ambulances on the 4th of July.

[Daily News]

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  • liberal hater

    If the city would have mutual aid with the surrounding counties to let the vol squads to respond into the city limits during times of shortages this would be eliminated but nooooo! Its most likely the union pushing back against this and the city residents suffer in the end

    • Angry Medic

      That is false even with mutual aid the surrounding counties wouldn’t be much help with the call volume either and mutual aid would only be activated on ICS situations which fortunately don’t happen on a daily bases. Secondly, if the surrounding counties were pulled in on all the”routine calls” then the counties wouldn’t have adequate staffing to service their own locals. More squads are needed as well as more qualified EMT and Paramedics. And lastly, the national standard is NOT dual medic if that was the case there’s cities and states all across America that are breaking the”standard” with far less call volume.

  • Mike from Rox

    Take the test Liberal Hater and you can move into the City and apply for the upcoming EMT position. The City needs to square away it’s call screening and dispatch protocols…not wait for Bensalem to get on location in Kensington for a DK who’s broken his hand or Darby to race in to Mantua for a tummy ache.

  • EX Medic

    The Department has approximately 50 less paramedics than it did ten years ago. Many have crossed over to become firefighters or eloped to the counties for a less hectic run volume. The current paramedic schedule puts additional stress on paramedics. A payback from the Nutter administration for winning the FLSA lawsuit. A suit that could have been avoided had the City complied with the 1992 Arbitration awarding the right of paramedics to also perform firefighting duties. Had the City negotiated in “Good Faith” and allowed the cross-over of paramedics to Firefighter-Paramedics, The aforementioned lawsuit would have been avoided.

    The City intends to downgrade all medic units from two paramedic teams to that of a paramedic and an EMT. This will place a greater stress on the paramedics. Each Philadelphia Medic unit already responds to double the national recommended maximum number of calls for Advanced Life Support units.

    Due to draconian and punitive work rules toward paramedics, there is a high attrition rate in Philadelphia. For every class of 15 to 20 paramedics, the department loses 5 to 10.

    There is nothing new. Paramedics have long be treated like Red-headed step children by fire Departments. Most notably in Philadelphia.

  • EX Medic

    Philadelphia routinely runs out of paramedic units at night after 8 pm when 12 ALS (Paramedic) units go out of service. The City claims that the runs go down at night. But the evidence concludes that running out of medic units justifies the 12 that are shut down need to be in service 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a tear. This practice mirrors the brownouts of the Engine and Ladder companies.

    If only the Department had the reliable number of working apparatus to effectively respond to calls, without breaking down.