Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad Announces Changes to Operations in the District of Columbia Effective January 1, 2022
The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad will end direct emergency medical service to Upper Northwest DC (including operation of the Rescue Squad’s direct emergency telephone line) after December 31, 2021.
On or after January 1, 2022, DC residents will need to call 9-1-1 for emergency medical service.
The decision came after a thorough examination of response data and consideration of the region’s current and planned emergency medical services and 9-1-1 communications capabilities. Both DC Fire and EMS and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue officials were consulted throughout the process. DC Fire and EMS assured BCCRS officials that the District has adequate resources to respond appropriately to medical emergencies anywhere in Upper Northwest DC.
“The Rescue Squad is committed to ensuring the best possible service to our communities, including the areas of Northwest Washington that we have served for more than 80 years,” said BCCRS Chief Edward “Ned” Sherburne. “As someone who was raised in the District and has more than four decades of service with the Rescue Squad, recommending this change was not easy—but the evidence made it clear that this is what is best for individuals who need emergency care and for the entire community.”
Since its founding in 1937, BCCRS has served neighborhoods in Upper Northwest Washington, DC, and Bethesda and Chevy Chase, Maryland, and surrounding communities.
In making the decision, the Rescue Squad’s Board of Directors expressed gratitude to the residents, businesses and local officials in Washington, DC, who supported the Rescue Squad’s service to DC residents over many decades.
In recent years, the level of EMS service provided by other organizations, including the DC Fire and EMS Department and the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, has increased. As a result, BCCRS units often pass one or more fire stations with EMS resources (including ambulances and/or paramedic units) while en route to calls made directly to BCCRS for assistance. In such situations, BCCRS units often are not the closest available emergency resource. At the same time, the number of calls from DC residents to the BCCRS emergency line has decreased from more than 1400 just two decades ago to just 381 in 2020.
Additionally, the technology and capabilities provided to Federally designated 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Points and their emergency communicators handling 9-1-1 calls has evolved considerably. The DC Office of United Communications, which answers emergency calls for the District of Columbia, has computer-aided medical dispatch protocols and sophisticated automatic location identification for callers who are unable to give their address, as well as access to other technologies. In short, BCCRS does not have the resources, technology or personnel to operate a modern public safety communications center.
“It no longer makes sense to operate a direct emergency line without the capabilities of a modern emergency communications system or for BCCRS ambulances to respond with lights and sirens while driving past stations in both DC and Montgomery County that have both basic and advanced life support services,” Chief Sherburne said. “We made this decision not because it’s what the Rescue Squad would like to do, but because it is in the best interests of the DC residents we have served and the regional EMS system as a whole.”
BCCRS will continue to operate its emergency line and respond to calls in its service area in Upper Northwest DC until December 31, 2021, in order to allow adequate time to inform the entire community of the upcoming changes. As of January 1, 2022, DC residents needing emergency medical service should call 9-1-1. The Rescue Squad will also continue to respond to DC for emergency incidents and special events when dispatched by Montgomery County after being requested by DC Fire and EMS through existing regional mutual aid agreements.
For more information, click here to read answers to some frequently asked questions about this decision.
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Founded in 1937, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad provides state of the art emergency medical, fire, and rescue services to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area and surrounding communities. BCCRS is managed entirely and staffed primarily by more than 100 active volunteer paramedics, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. BCCRS is fully integrated into the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.