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Kern County implements emergency medical services system surge plan for 9-1-1 calls

Posted at 4:32 PM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 20:40:39-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Kern County Public Health Department officials announced Tuesday that due to a significant increase in 9-11 calls putting a strain on the emergency response system they are implementing the emergency medical services system surge plan that was originally introduced back in December of 2020. This means first responders will not respond to all calls for emergency services.

"This week we will move from level one to level two of the surge plan. This means ambulances will only respond to low acuity 9-1-1 calls when there are sufficient resources available," explained Kern County Public Health Director Brynn Carrigan. "If an ambulance is not available to be dispatched, the caller will be informed of the situation and provided with other options for obtaining care including contacting a primary care physician or an urgent care."

The plan has four levels that determine specific actions based upon the following criteria:

  • The volume of 9-1-1 calls.
  • Ambulance availability based on covid-19 transports.
  • Patient offload times at hospitals.
  • And the percentage of staff impacted by COVID-19.

EMS System Surge Plan

The planned changes to the system will be implemented later this week. The county has also integrated an additional emergency response agency, called Pro-Safety, into the system to respond to lower-risk calls when ambulances are not available.

What happens differently now when I call 911 and how will this impact me?

Currently, we expect that ambulance service will be available for emergency transports and EMS will continue to monitor the situation to ensure our highest level calls are responded to. By adding additional resources to the system, we will ensure that the system remains strong and available to respond to our community.

If it is determined that your call would most appropriately be handled by contacting your medical provider or by visiting an urgent care and that a visit to the emergency room is not likely warranted, an ambulance may not be dispatched to respond to your call. All 911 calls will be routed to a 911 operator who will help determine the severity of your call. If an ambulance is not able to respond, the County has integrated an additional emergency response agency into the system to respond to low acuity calls. You will also be provided with instructions on the appropriate steps to take.

How can the community help?

Only call 911 in the event of an actual emergency. Continue to practice healthy habits such as staying home, washing your hands often, wearing a face-covering when you must leave for home, and avoid gathering with those not in your own household.
Kern County Public Health Department

The surge plan for emergency medical services has four levels:

  • Level One is the lowest level and requires no change in response from first responders.
  • Level Two which is the level the county is now moving to at the end of the week means first responders only work or go out for high-priority calls.
  • Level Three the public will only be referred to the county's secondary response agency called pro-safety.
  • Level Four means there will not be any response from emergency medical services. At that point, field treatment sites would be utilized for patient treatment and care.