What took Detroit EMS so long to get downtown?

Detroit News reporter says it took 25 minutes for EMS to get to Coleman Young building


DETROIT – The first person to notice Detroit News reporter Darren Nichols' alarming symptoms was Detroit Free Press reporter Matt Helms.

"He kind of stumbled a little bit, sat down in his chair and didn't look right, and he was showing some really classic signs of stoke symptoms," said Helms.

They were in the basement of the Coleman Young Municipal Building. Helms called 911 and began an agonizing wait.

"I was just kind of frustrated and running from one end of the building to the other to see if I could see an ambulance coming," said Helms.

The Detroit Fire Department needed to bring in an ambulance operated by Universal Macomb. It began it's trip from the area of 8 Mile Road and Gratiot Avenue.

"I mean, the first call was 10:10. The last call I made, and it's still listed on my phone, was 20 minutes later," said Helms.

He believes it took up to 25 minutes for the ambulance to arrive on Woodward Avenue before taking Nichols to a hospital.

"In this particular case, the total response time from the first call to the EMS unit's arrival was 18 minutes, which clearly is not acceptable and is being addressed," said Detroit Fire Commissioner Edsel Jenkins.

Jenkins said average EMS response times were 18 minutes in January and have been lowered to 12 minutes. Next week, the first five of 15 new Detroit EMS rigs will be put into service and 23 new EMTs will graduate from the academy.

On Thursday, during Nichols' emergency, four EMS rigs were out of service with mechanical issues. The remaining 17 were on other runs.

"What if it had been the mayor or somebody else who was having a medical emergency?" said Helms.