Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District expands ambulance services, receives accreditation |

Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District expands ambulance services, receives accreditation

The Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District is expanding ambulance services thanks to a new ambulance license from Summit County.
Courtesy Jim Keating

BRECKENRIDGE — Improved ambulance services have arrived in Breckenridge.

Earlier this year, the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District received an ambulance license from Summit County, allowing the district to operate its emergency medical response resources independently for the first time. According to officials, the move will allow the district to respond more efficiently and to higher volumes of calls than ever before.

“Now that we’re operating the system independently, we have compete control of where we dispense our resources and all of that,” said Chief Jim Keating, who noted that conversations with the county about the change date back more than a decade but ramped up ahead of this year’s merger of Summit Fire & EMS and the Summit County Ambulance Service in January.

“I think it will improve delivery times to where we have more ambulances in the system than we did before,” Keating said. “So we’ll be able to cover calls in a quicker fashion without relying on the Summit County ambulance system to come in and backfill us or have to send an ambulance out of their area to stage for additional calls.”

Keating noted a definitive need for more dedicated ambulance services in the area as medical calls continue to grow. The district handled about 10-12 medical transports a year as recently as 2013, according to Keating. Today that number has grown to around 1,300 a year or 58% of the district’s emergency calls.

The fire district maintains three ambulances, but until this year, it was able to staff only one by itself and was able to enter the second into service only when activated by the former Summit County Ambulance Service. 

The district was reliant on the ambulance service to respond to subsequent calls or stage in Breckenridge until its crew was free. Now, Keating said the department will be able to staff full-time ambulances at the district’s Main Street and Grand Lodge stations along with a third at the Tiger Road station that can be activated while the other two are on call.

Keating noted that the additional flexibility also would free up operations for Summit Fire ambulances, which won’t be required to respond to Breckenridge calls as frequently moving forward.

“Every year, the call numbers for EMS were growing, and it was becoming harder and harder for the county system to sustain that,” Keating said. “… Now that we have the ability to operate two full-time units, with a third that can be placed into the system at any time, we’re making a much better utilization of our resources than we were previously. We’ve eliminated that overlap that was in place before.”

In addition to reorganizing the district’s emergency medical infrastructure, the department also has taken other recent steps to help improve operations, including upgrading one of its ambulances last year — the old one was donated to rural Honduras — and purchasing new tactical EMS gear designed to protect responders in dangerous situations like active shooters. The district is also set to hire on a new EMS chief in April.

Recent accolades

The Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District just received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Service. The accreditation, considered the “gold standard” for ambulance services in the country, comes after two years of comprehensive self-assessment and external review of the department. Red, White & Blue is the sixth district in the state to hold the accreditation.

Red, White & Blue also has been accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International since 2012 and is one of just 11 organizations in the country to hold both, according to Keating.

“It’s a huge deal,” Keating said. “We’re one of very few fire department to hold joint accreditations. Surprisingly, after the site visit, they didn’t have a single requested change for us. It gave us confidence that what we’ve been building here is quality. That means a lot to us.”

The Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada also awarded the fire district with the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the ninth time. The award is given annually to organizations that demonstrate financial transparency and good practices.

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