A lack of ambulances continues to impact emergency response in Detroit

Detroit (WXYZ) - "There is no crew available."

Those are the words firefighters heard from dispatchers when they asked for EMS to respond to a burning home where a woman was trapped.

They went inside the smoke filled home, looking for her.  When they found her, she wasn't breathing.

"We brought her out, started CPR, and waited for the EMS to show up," said Sgt. Michael Dillon of the Detroit Fire Department.

Sgt. Dillon and fellow firefighter Claude Milhouse gave her CPR until Jeannette Wright finally started breathing. 

EMS still wasn't there. 

Firefighters asked if they could put her in a police car, and rush her to the hospital. 

They were told to wait, an ambulance was now on the way.

The EMS crews would arrive 28 minutes after the original 911 call, and 19 minutes after firefighters.

"We are doing the best we can with limited resources," said Detroit Fire Commissioner Donald Austin.

He says the overall problem is a lack of funding. 

Austin says a city the size of Detroit needs 23 to 25 reliable ambulances, but only has about 17. 

It is a situation that would be worse were it not for the help of donations from numerous people and businesses including Dan Gilbert, Roger Penske, Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors.  They and others donated money that helped put ten new ambulances on the road.  Another 13 are on order and expected to arrive sometime at the end of next month.

Austin warns that Detroit Ambulances cover a lot of miles, and a plan needs to be put into place to make sure money is available for more in the future.  He says he hopes as the city's bankruptcy proceedings continue, more money is made available to the fire department.

Another big obstacle to quick response times is outdated dispatch software.  He says the current software doesn't allow dispatchers to prioritize calls in an ideal way.  He says city leaders are working on a plan, but it will take a while.   He expects new software to be in place in a couple years.

Family members of Jeannette Wright say they are just grateful she survived, despite such challenges.

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