Coast Life Support District

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Home Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions


Q. In an emergency should I call 911 on a cell phone or on a land line?

A: When possible you should use a land-line, or "wired" phone as it is a faster way of getting emergency medical help than using the cell phone.  Since the cell phone is most often used for people who are in vehicles, cell phone 911 calls go directly to the California Highway Patrol, which just adds an extra step before there is contact with the dispatch cetner for an ambulance.  If using a cell phone, it is quicker to call 707-565-2121 (Sonoma County) or 707-463-4086 (Mendocino County).

Q. If I call 911 on a land-line, where does the call go?

A: From Sonoma County the call would go to the dispatch center in Santa Rosa, which dispatches fire departments and ambulances all over Sonoma County as well as the ambulances from CLSD. From Mendocino County the call would go to the dispatch center in Willits which will dispatch the local fire departments, and contact the REDCOM dispatch center in Santa Rosa to dispatch the CLSD ambulance.

Q. If I have an urgent medical problem--but it's not a serious emergency--what are my options?

A:  The RCMS Clinic provides Urgent Care seven days a week from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.  After hours, you may call the clinic at 884-4005 and be connected to a nurse who will discuss your problem with you, and talk you through your options for medical care.

Q. Why do we need a fire crew to respond as well as an ambulance?

A: Our district is very large, and it can can take a while for the CLSD ambulance to get to the more remote parts of the district.  Fire departments are generally closer to the incident than the ambulance is, so frequently the fire department can get there sooner. Fire department personnel are trained to assess the situation and can call additional resources, if necessary.

Q. Are there emergency medical providers on the fire trucks?

A: All the fire departments have EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and First Responders who have basic first aid skills. Their job is to assess the situation and stabilize the patient.  On the ambulance we have EMTs, but we also have paramedics.

Q. What is the difference between a First Responder, an EMT and a Paramedic?

A: To be a certified First Responder requires 54 hours of training in providing pre-hospital care for medical emergencies. An EMT has about 150 hours of training; we call them Basic Life Support (BLS) providers.  EMTs do lots of vital things—they can administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), splint or bandage wounds, administer oxygen, treat for shock, and other BLS procedures that will help to stabilize a patient.
A paramedic has about 1500 hours of training, and are considered Advanced Life Support (ALS).  Paramedics can do a few more things than an EMT. They can give certain drugs, they can start IVs, and they can place a tube into your trachea to help you breathe. They can also use a cardiac monitor to evaluate your heart, if need be.

Q. Where does the ambulance take patients?

A: It depends on what the problem is. CLSD will transport to the closest appropriate facility.  For much of the district, the closest hospital would probably be Mendocino Coast District Hospital in Ft. Bragg, but they are smaller than some other hospitals in the area and may not have the some specialized services available 24x7.  To the south, the closest hospital is Palm Drive Hospital in Sebastopol, which is also small.  If you're having a heart problem, we want you to go to an emergency department that has cardiologists, a catheterization lab and those kinds of things available. The same idea applies for severe trauma, stroke, or pediatric emergencies. The closest facilities to handle these things are Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa.

Q. Do I really need to go all the way to Santa Rosa?

A: Generally ambulances have to transport to hospitals.   However, we're so far away from the hospitals that we are allowed to take patients to the Redwood Coast Medical Services (RCMS) clinic in Gualala.  If an injured or ill person is taken to RCMS, their staff assess and stabilize a patient and make the decision about what to do next.  Sometimes they call for a helicopter, or sometimes they'll treat the patient at RCMS and send him or her home.  If it's a local patient with an injury or illness that can be treated at RCMS, it saves everybody a lot of travel time, it keeps the ambulance in the district, and it reduces the bill dramatically for the patient, so everyone benefits.

Q. What determines whether I get transported in an ambulance or in a helicopter?

A: The medical provider on scene (EMT, Paramedic, etc.) makes that determination based on their best judgment, considering the urgency of your particular ailment and the transportation resources available.  If it's life threatening, we want to get you to a hospital as quickly as possible.  So if you have something very time-sensitive, such as a stroke or a heart attack, we'll try to transport you in a helicopter.  If you're stable, and in our judgment you can go by ground, then you'd go by ambulance.  In an ambulance it's going to take roughly two hours to get from the center of our district to a hospital. On average, the same trip will take 20 minutes by helicopter.

Q. Do I need to be a subscriber to one of the helicopter services (REACH, CALSTAR) to be transported by a helicopter?

A: No. The decision is actually made by the ambulance crew on scene. However, the helicopters, just like the ambulance, are required to transport anybody regardless of their ability to pay or whether they're a subscriber or not. There's a financial benefit for being a subscriber as it reduces your bill.

Q: But what if I WANT to go in the helicopter, and I’m a member of REACH or CALSTAR?

A: A basic principle of emergency medical response is to use the most appropriate resources to address the medical need. You will not be transported in the helicopter if there is no medical need—this would tie up a critical emergency response resource that might be needed elsewhere on a moment’s notice.   For ground transportation, if you do not require the services of a Paramedic for your ride to a hospital, we will likely transport you in an EMT-staffed ambulance so we can keep the paramedic here on the coast in the event of another serious emergency.

Q. What's the average number of 911 calls CLSD receives in a week?

A: We respond to just over 500 calls in a year, or an average of about 10 calls a week.  We transport just under 400 patients per year by ground ambulance, so on average, we're transporting 7 or 8 times a week.

end faq