With Ambulance Service Cut, Alligator Alley Rescues May Take Awhile
Broward County has decided to stop its ambulance service on the one stretch of highway in South Florida with the least amount of lighting, where people statistically travel way past the speed limit, and where alligators, panthers, and snakes reside just off to the side of the road.
Alligator Alley will no longer have its one, three-man ambulance service starting next month.
So if you're going to get into a horrible, life-threatening accident, make sure it's not on Alligator Alley. Because it could take awhile for someone to come get you to take you to the hospital.
The decision comes thanks mainly to budget cuts at Broward Sheriff's Office. Removing the ambulance from Alligator Alley will save the county about a million bucks. But it's not like the ambulance wasn't being used. After a 2003 New Year's Eve crash on the alley that killed three people — including two children — the service has been as active as ever. Another horrible accident occurred weeks after that.
The rescue station was opened ten miles west of the Broward toll plaza in 2005, and response times to alley accidents were suddenly swift and effective. Response times went from 30 minutes to ten minutes.
One fire truck with three paramedics will remain at the station, Sheriff Scott Israel told the Sun Sentinel. But guess what? That can transport only one victim. Others will have to wait for a helicopter to come or for emergency personnel to arrive from Collier County. (A station is being built 13 miles west of the Broward County line.) And the City of Weston has warned that its own emergency staffers are needed there — so don't expect them to take on the burden of handling Alligator Alley crashes.
According to one study, 85 percent of traffic on the alley travels way past the speed limit — at least 84 mph, in one estimate.
City Manager John Flint wrote a letter to Israel pleading with him to not pull the ambulance service. "The severity and duration of the calls'' on Alligator Alley and U.S. 27 can't be properly handled by one three-person truck, Flint wrote.
The alley isn't solely Broward's responsibility. Emergency medical crews from Palm Beach, Collier, Hendry, and Miami-Dade counties respond to roughly 350 calls a year, with about 22,500 vehicles traveling on the stretch of highway a day, according to data. But a big stretch of the alley is technically in Broward. The sheriff says the budget is forcing his hand.
So if you happen to crash your car in a murky swamp, hang tight. Someone is coming. Eventually. You're just going to have to apply your own make-shift tourniquet and fend off the gators on your own while you wait.
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