What’s being done to speed up emergency response times in Osceola County

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — You don’t often think about it until you need it, but when an emergency happens the minutes count.

It’s been a concern for Osceola County residents for months. Again and again residents voiced concerns at public meetings and claimed that emergency response times were taking too long.


9 Investigates started looking into those claims two months ago. Our reporting discovered that even Osceola County Fire Rescue admits those response times are not where they need to be.

Osceola County resident Jillian Tejedo knows this all too well. On a summer day in 2018, Tejedo got a frantic call from her eldest daughter. Her then youngest, 2 year old Ava Tejedo, had slipped out of her yellow floatie on family pool day and wasn’t breathing.

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Through a Facetime call, she watched her husband immediately start CPR on her daughter while she rushed home from work. Tejedo knew it was about a 30-minute commute through traffic to get to her daughter’s side.

“I pulled in right behind the ambulance. They had just gotten there,” said Tejedo.

Records from the Osceola County Fire Rescue show a crew got to Ava 9 minutes after the 911 call came in.

But it took more than 20 minutes for patient transport to arrive at the scene. An ambulance had be called in all the way from Orange County because the Osceola County Rescue was on another call.

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While Tejedo says Ava is lucky to be alive today, that day four years ago is still a reminder of how far help can be.

“All anyone knows to do in an emergency is call 911. And if they cannot help us, it’s like, you know, it’s just terrifying,” said Tejedo.

The Osceola County Professional Firefighters Union believes slow response times could cost people their lives. Union President Shawnathon Perkins says firefighters are stretched thin. He believes the county needs to prioritize investing in more fire stations and more rescue vehicles.

Perkins notes long response times put lives at risk especially when it comes to things like heart attacks and strokes.

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“Your outcome of getting better, significantly decreases the longer it takes for you to get to that hospital,” said Perkins.

9 Investigates wanted to see what the data showed. We collected data on emergency medical calls at five different Osceola County Fire Stations for the month of February. The stations we selected covered the north, south, east and west sides of the county.

At all five stations, there were calls where patients had to wait more than 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

Station 65′s data shows a patient reporting heart problems waited 24 minutes for an ambulance. Same for station 62 where someone convulsing waited over 24 minutes. For station 71 another person reporting a hemorrhage waited more than 27 minutes.

We took our findings to the Osceola County Fire Chief Larry Collier.

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Collier points out that in most of these cases, an Advance Life Support truck did get to the scene before the rescue ambulance arrived.

“The most important part is getting ALS care on scene,” said Collier.

He says at least one Advance Life Support engine gets to a patient in under 9 minutes on just over half of all 911 calls. But the goal is meeting an 8 minute and 30 second benchmark on 70 percent of calls.

According to Collier, the county has a plan to meet that goal. That plan, is playing catch-up to the county’s rapid growth.

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In 2012, a report noted the county would need to replace 8 stations and build 18 new ones by 2040. But that is still a work in progress.

“It’s just a slow process, when you’re as far behind as we are, we have the existing needs. And now we’re dealing with new arriving needs, " said Collier.

Since Collier became chief in 2019, the county has broken ground on two new stations which will be up and running by this summer. That includes station 67 which will be right next to the Austin-Tindall Sports Complex, and station 45 which will be coming to Calypso Cay Way.

“You see a chain developing as we add these stations in between the gaps and that’s what’s going to help reduce the overall travel time,” said Collier.

But time is precious especially when second feels like hours. That new Austin Tindall station would have responded to Tejedo’s call 4 years ago.

Tejedo says she heard that the new station was coming immediately after her daughter’s near drowning in 2019, but four years later and that station is still not up and running. She thinks improving response times should be a bigger priority.

“A lot of people don’t even think about this unless something happens to them,” said Tejedo, " In a true emergency EMS responding with a good time is everything to that patient.”

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