Md. county FD rolls out cold response system for less urgent medical calls

The agency hopes to preserve roadway safety by running ambulances without lights and sirens when a patient’s injuries are not life-threatening


By Laura French

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — A Maryland county fire agency will begin conducting some ambulance transports without using lights and sirens, under a “cold response” system for less critical medical calls.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Lt. Paramedic Shantell Brown said the new system is meant to improve roadway safety and reduce overcrowding at local emergency rooms, according to WUSA.

“We want to protect the public,” Brown said. “We want to protect our personnel. We don’t necessarily want to be going down the road with lights and sirens when it very well may not be warranted.”

The system is also part of a partnership with county hospitals, known as the Alternative Destination Program, in which patients can opt to go to an urgent care clinic instead of a hospital emergency room.

The fire department said it had received several alerts over the last few months that hospital emergency rooms were full or busy and needed ambulances to transport patients elsewhere.

One hospital, Holy Cross Health, said 30% of their emergency department visits were for flu-like symptoms.

“We have our finger on the pulse,” Brown said. “We are constantly monitoring and managing our system for the betterment of getting people to the right place in an appropriate time fashion.”

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