SAN ANTONIO - The only time you think about an ambulance is when you need one. But what if that first responder is delayed? It could mean life or death.
Screenshots taken by San Antonio Fire Department medics provided to KENS 5 by the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association show the status of SAFD ambulances.
According to the photos, there were multiple times last month where only a handful, and sometimes even one ambulance, was available for the entire city.
At one point this week, there were only three for a city with a population of more than 2 million people.
"They get dangerously low on EMS units pretty much on a daily basis," said Christopher Steele, president of the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Association, who added that the city needs more ambulances and medics to go with them. "I hate to think it's occurring, but I know people are dying because our ambulances are not getting to them in time and getting them to the hospital."
SAFD Deputy Chief Vance Meade says that the screen shots only reflect a single moment in time and citizens shouldn't be concerned.
"While it technically means that's the number of units available at that second, it doesn't reflect how many units we could have online in a minute or two," Meade said.
The San Antonio Fire Department has full-time first responders who monitor the number of ambulances available around the clock.
"While there may only be three units available, that might be because we have one to four units in training that we could pull out if needed, or we may have one to five units at a hospital that are just about to clear out," Meade explained.
But there are times when response times are delayed due to manpower.
KENS 5 requested calls from the city for Station 44, which is located on Horal, near Marbach and Loop 410.
Based on the data provided, since January, crews at Station 44 have been sent outside Loop 1604 at least 24 times.
Crews were sent as far away as Shaenfield, Culebra, and Potranco.
"If we're further than a certain amount of time out, then we will automatically send a first responder," Meade said.
Those first responders are EMTs who are also firefighters.
"We feel that we have enough EMS units. We would always want more," Meade said. "There's no fire chief who would say, 'I don't want any more resources.'"
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