On any given day, Area Ambulance Service has six or seven advanced life support units stationed throughout its 250-square-mile service territory.
When a 9-1-1 call comes in, a computer-aided dispatch system sends the closest ambulance to respond to the emergency.
Based on call history, the intuitive system then directs the other units to new geographic locations to await the next call.
“We use dynamic system status deployment to ensure optimal response times,” said Keith Rippy, Area Ambulance CEO. “Our goal is to respond within nine minutes 90 percent of the time.
“For the last several years, we’ve been at 95 percent.”
Each ambulance is crewed by a minimum of one paramedic and one EMT and equipped with technology and drugs for advanced life support. Features include power load electronics to lift and move the patient’s cot and a sophisticated heart monitor that sends the patient’s biometric data to the emergency room even before the ambulance arrives.
“The ambulances are designed to maximize patient and crew safety and patient care,” Rippy said.
Area Ambulance has provided emergency response services to Cedar Rapids, Marion and 13 surrounding communities since 1971, when it was founded as part of Mercy Medical Center.
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In 2005, the organization separated from Mercy Medical and became a stand-alone not-for-profit enterprise. It currently operates under a mutual cooperation agreement among the cities of Cedar Rapids and Marion, Linn County, UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Hospital and Mercy Medical.
“We are completely non-subsidized,” Rippy said. “We are user-fee based and receive no tax dollars or other financial support as part of our mission to be self-supporting.”
Last year, Area Ambulance and its fleet of 12 ambulances responded to 21,000 calls for emergency service, almost double the call volume of 2005. Approximately 75 percent of those calls required transport.
Rippy attributed the substantial increase in demand for ambulance services over the past decade to a combination of reasons, including a successful public safety campaign promoting the 9-1-1 emergency response system, an aging population and increased obesity rates.
“There’s also been an uptick due to opioid abuse, but we’re not sure to what extent yet,” he said.
In conjunction with both Cedar Rapids hospitals, the organization has implemented a community paramedicine program aimed to reduce the number of repeat transports.
“The hospitals refer high risk patients to us when they are released, and we visit them at home to make sure they have their medicine and are following their discharge orders,” Rippy explained.
“The idea is doing things that will improve their health to improve the recidivism rate. The results have been positive so far.”
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Under another program, the organization conducts CPR training at no cost for all graduating seniors in the Cedar Rapids Community School District, benefiting more than 5,000 students to date.
It also provides free standby ambulance service for hundreds of community events each year such as the Freedom Festival, high school sporting events and road races.
“Part of our mission is to give back to the community we serve,” Rippy said. “We are much more than an ambulance service. We’re a valuable community asset.”
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At a glance
• Business: Area Ambulance Service
• Address: 2730 12th Street SW, Cedar Rapids
• Website: www.area-ambulance.org
• Number of Employees: 75
• Years in Business: 47