Vancouver to Possibly Give AMR Paramedics Key to Gated Communities

Vancouver to Possibly Give AMR Paramedics Key to Gated Communities

News Aug 18, 2017

Aug. 18—Vancouver city councilors on Monday will consider allowing ambulances to have a master key to the city's gated communities.

American Medical Response Northwest, the city's contracted ambulance provider, often responds to emergency calls alongside the Vancouver Fire Department. However, when an AMR ambulance is the first to arrive to a gated community, paramedics have to wait at the gate for a firetruck with a master key.

"What we've done in the past is hit some buttons and hope someone lets us in," said Rocco Roncarati, regional director of AMR for Southwest Washington. "We say, 'We're emergency responder, we're locked outside the gate and we need access' ... but sometimes they won't let you in. We say we're an emergency responder, but they don't actually know who it is. You never want to grant access without verifying who's at the gate."

For more than 30 years, businesses and gated communities in Vancouver have been required to have a Knox-Box, a lock box which holds a key to the premises. Each fire engine carries a master key which opens these Knox-Boxes.

Vancouver Fire Chief Joe Molina said that the boxes outside of businesses are meant to allow firefighters access to a building where a fire alarm is sounding after hours. Instead of breaking a door or window to get in, the Knox-Box program allows firefighters to gain quick and easy access.

"It allows us to not cause property damage unnecessarily but still make sure the facility is not having a fire," Molina said.

The proposed change to the city ordinance would give AMR a sub-key that would allow its paramedics quicker access into the gated communities only. Their master keys would not work on Knox-Boxes at businesses, Molina said.

Vancouver fire officials and AMR have been discussing the change for about a year.

"It's just a win-win for folks who utilize the service," Roncarati said. "It's just a way to make sure that there's absolutely no delay in accessing the patients."

Fire officials said there are more than 300 gated communities in Vancouver.

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Neither AMR nor the fire department expects much resistance to the proposed change—in fact, Molina said that the keys for the ambulances have already been ordered.

Monday's Vancouver City Council meeting will include a public comment and vote on the proposed ordinance and contract amendment.

The Columbian, Vancouver, Wash.
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