Ambulance Response to Life-Threatening Emergencies

Public Safety

Fire Department

Target: 90 percent of ambulances on-scene within 10 minutes

Result: 93 percent of ambulances on-scene within 10 minutes

When someone calls 911 to request emergency medical services, first responders and ambulances fulfill different roles in the response. In a life-threatening medical emergency, first responders providing basic and advanced life support (BLS/ALS) arrive first at the scene of the incident to treat the patient until an ambulance arrives to transport the patient to the hospital, if necessary. According to policy set forth by San Francisco’s Emergency Medical Services Agency, ambulances should arrive at the scene of a life-threatening emergency medical incident within ten minutes 90 percent of the time.


How the Fire Department is Performing

In late summer 2014, ambulances were exceeding San Francisco’s standard of ten minutes to respond to a life-threatening emergency medical call. Under the oversight of the Mayor’s and the Controller’s Office, the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) and the city’s three ambulance providers, San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) and private providers King-American and American Medical Response, convened working groups to troubleshoot operational issues in the multi-provider system and develop shared performance metrics.

Since the establishment of working groups, the ambulance on time performance (OTP) rate has steadily improved since the lowest rate of 76 percent in July 2014. Ongoing working group meetings serve to manage the system through the participation of all stakeholders, and resulting operational improvements, such as additional SFFD staffing and coordinated scheduling between SFFD and the private providers, likely contributed to OTP improvement throughout fiscal year 2015-16.

How Performance is Measured

The response interval is measured from the time a unit is dispatched to a call until the time that the unit arrives at the scene of the incident. OTP is calculated using the percentage of calls that had an ambulance response interval time below the 10 minute time goal. Calls that were upgraded from Code 2 (non-life-threatening) to Code 3 (life-threatening) en route to the scene are excluded from the calculation.

The number displayed on the scorecard page represents a fiscal year average of the response chart above.

Additional Information

View response interval dashboards on San Francisco’s emergency medical response webpage.


Please visit DataSF for the scorecard data.