AUSTIN (KXAN) — In March, Austin-Travis County EMS launched a pilot program where medics joined Austin lake patrol police officers on patrol boats on Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin.
The pilot is currently over because it’s no longer busy season for Austin’s waterways, and now ATCEMS is reviewing the results of the pilot to determine whether – and in what capacity – to bring it back next year.
“What we know about waterways is they’re very difficult to navigate when a 911 call comes in,” said ATCEMS Asst. Chief Wesley Hopkins. “So having that medic in the water with APD on a boat was able to reduce response times.”
He added that the program helped reduce response times from 17 minutes to about 5 minutes. Part of the after-action analysis will include analyzing if there were enough medical calls to justify the resources, and if anything can or should be adjusted from this past summer’s model, the department said.
“The call volume on the water fluctuates at times, kind of splitting time with APD,” Hopkins said. “And also helping with patron safety on the water. And so that was a very positive thing, we were able to interface with the community and talk with them about the dangers of these open waterways.”
Hopkins said having medics on the lake also helped free up nearby ambulances for other 911 calls.
The Austin Police Department sent KXAN the following statement about its thoughts on the lake medic program.
The LakeMed program has been instrumental in enhancing the capabilities of the Austin Police Department’s Lake Patrol Unit. By integrating medics who are also trained rescue swimmers directly onto our patrol boats, the program has significantly elevated our emergency response capabilities on the water. Their dual expertise allows for quicker and more specialized response to a variety of critical situations, providing immediate medical and rescue services that a land-based ambulance or Lake Patrol officers alone could not offer.Austin Police Department
ATCEMS is currently running two other pilot programs, one at the airport and another on Rainey Street.