CLEARWATER, Fla. - A growing population can mean a longer response time for first responders, which is why they're hoping a new roaming response unit will help fix that.
During an emergency, getting to a scene fast is critical. Right now, Clearwater Fire and Rescue say they are struggling to keep up.
"These units normally fit the dynamics of this area, but now you add another 30,000 people on top of it, it doesn't fit the dynamics,” says Clearwater Fire Chief Scott Ehlers
Chief Ehlers says an aging population is also why they're seeing more calls. He says getting to a scene within 7 minutes is ideal but with most units responding to, on average, a dozen or more calls a shift, it's tough. The new roaming unit is proving to be vital. The rescuers respond to several of the medical calls, so the other units can focus on more pressing issues.
"For the normal person they might see an ambulance go by one time or a fire truck one time not knowing that this vehicle responded 19 different times. That is extremely busy," said Lt. Ben McBride.
We rode along with the roaming unit Thursday during peak hours and responded to numerous calls.
Officials say the roaming unit has been extremely busy and, if this continues, they're going to try and make it permanent.
"This is being looked at by just about every department across this Nation, in regards to how do we handle this increase in EMS calls while maintaining a least a some type of financial responsibility to the citizen," said Ehlers.
The department will move the unit closer to U.S. 19 in one week to test it out there as well.