EMS Surge Plans
Howard County Fire and Rescue Services (HCDFRS) puts EMS Surge Plans in place when the number of available EMS units in the county is reduced, and units aren’t expected to become available within 15 minutes.
This reduction of units occurs when we receive a high number of 911 calls in a short amount of time. This often coincides with local hospitals experiencing decreased bed capacity, which means our ambulances need to wait an extended period of time to transfer patient care to ER staff.
After implementing EMS Surge Plans, HCDFRS takes immediate actions to ensure that we can continue to provide critical care and the highest customer service possible. Depending on the number of EMS units available, the department takes steps to put additional ambulances in service, triage 911 calls based on priority, and reduce ambulance turnaround times at local hospitals.
HCDFRS uses the Hospital Ambulance dashboard to monitor the status of local emergency departments and the number of ambulances at each hospital. The dashboard is available here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are EMS Surge Plans related to the COVID-19 pandemic?
We began implementing EMS Surge Plans in January 2022, but the reduction of EMS units due to high call volume and limited hospital capacity is not unique to the pandemic.
What causes the department to implement an EMS Surge Plan?
HCDFRS puts EMS Surge Plans in place when the number of available EMS units in the county is reduced, and units aren’t expected to become available within 15 minutes.
How long do EMS Surge Plans usually last?
EMS Surge Plans last a minimum of 30 minutes and can be extended. Typically, surge plans last an hour.
How will I know if the department has implemented an EMS Surge Plan?
When HCDFRS reaches a severe system strain, meaning less than 20% of our ambulances are available or expected to become available in 15 minutes, we will post an alert on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
How can the community help avoid EMS Surge Plans?
The community can help prevent EMS Surge Plans by calling 911 only for emergencies. Being transported to a hospital by ambulance, particularly for low acuity complaints, does not guarantee a bed or faster triage time.