Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad to End Direct EMS Service to DC
The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad will end its direct ambulance service to Upper Northwest DC, including operation of the Rescue Squad’s direct emergency telephone line, after December 31, 2021. This decision, made in concert with District of Columbia officials, was announced earlier this year. Click here to read our letter to the DC Fire Chief.
Beginning 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 as well as 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, I have always been proud of our service to these communities. 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. The Rescue Squad is grateful to the residents, businesses and local officials in Washington, DC, whose contributions and support made it possible for us to provide high-quality, state-of-the-art prehospital medical care.
In recent years, the level of EMS resources 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 ambulances often pass one or more fire stations with 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.
“The rapid technological evolution of the last few decades has made it financially and operationally impossible for us to maintain an emergency phone line that can provide the same level of service as a modern emergency communications center like those operated by the District and by Montgomery County,” 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.”
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 the District 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.