Community Ambulance Association, Ambler wins Upper Dublin Medal

CAAA Battalion Chief Chas. Byram, left, and Executive Director David Fleming with the new ambulance.

UPPER DUBLIN >> An organization in the business of saving lives has been chosen to receive the Upper Dublin Medal as the outstanding community nonprofit.

The Community Ambulance Association, Ambler, whose mission is stated as “Excellence in Pre-Hospital Care,” celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016, during which it responded to more than 3,000 ambulance calls.

“We’re very honored” to receive the medal, CAAA Executive Director David Fleming said last week.

Headquartered in Ambler Borough for many years, the ambulance association moved to a new facility at 1414 Butler Pike in Upper Dublin in 2003, and covers Ambler, Lower Gwynedd, most of Upper Dublin and the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Willow Grove and the Mid-County tolls.

“We’ve partnered with Upper Dublin for many years” and work well with township administrators, Fleming said, so after being nominated, “we thought we had a pretty good shot at it. Obviously, you never know who the competition is … we’re honored with the recognition.”

The CAAA maintains a fleet of four mobile intensive care units as well as an on-call officer’s vehicle, providing advance life support coverage 24 hours a day 365 days a year. It employs 2.5 administrative personnel, seven full-time and 25 part-time EMTs and paramedics, and has 15 volunteers, Fleming said.

Each ambulance is staffed with a state certified emergency medical technician and a state licensed paramedic and carries a 15-lead KG/defibrillator/heart monitor that transmits EKG tracings directly to the hospital.

“We have a lot of assisted living facilities in the area,” Fleming said, noting “73 percent of the patients [served] are from those facilities.”

As a 911 first responder, CAAA has two crews on during the day and one at night and responds to about seven to 10 calls a day, Fleming said. More crews are on for special events, such as graduations, fire expos, festivals, fireworks and run/walks, and the organization also visits schools in the Upper Dublin and Wissahickon school districts, he said.

The highest number of calls are for traffic accidents, mostly on Route 309 and the Turnpike, followed by cardiac emergencies, fall victims and respiratory emergencies — “they were the top four in dispatch complaints in 2016,” Fleming said. The majority, about 80 percent of transports, go to Abington Memorial Hospital, which has the largest trauma center in the area, he said.

The CAAA’s annual operating budget is about $1,367,000, with the average cost of emergency ambulance service ranging from $800 to $1,200.

Eighty percent of the association’s income comes from Medicare, the rest from fundraising, memberships, special events and grants, he said.

“We need the community to support us financially,” Fleming said.

The basic shell of a new ambulance the CAAA just purchased cost $150,000 and outfitting it with equipment and medication will cost another $80,000, he said.

A video laryngoscope that helps guide medics to establish airways and a portable Lucas device that does chest compressions on cardiac victims, freeing the medic “to do other things the patient might need” are among the newest tools in the ambulances, he said.

The CAAA is helping pilot a program this year with Upper Dublin Township and the Second Alarmer’s Rescue Squad in which the county 911 center sends the closest ambulance for an emergency dispatch, Fleming said.

“They’re testing that to see if it will work countywide,” he said, noting “less than 5 percent of calls are those in which every second counts.

“We think we’ve been a long-time community partner with the three municipalities we serve,” Fleming said. “We have a very good reputation in the community,” responding to 911 calls, doing CPR training and going into the schools. “We love to do events with kids at camps, when it’s a non-threatening situation. We try to reduce the anxiety.

“When you’re in the back it’s a rather anxious situation. We do a lot of community awareness programs to try to reduce that anxiety.”

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