Hennepin County ‘Jump Car’ enters service to shorten 911 call response time

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Hennepin EMS is testing out a new idea to help deal with a shortage of paramedics.

A “Jump Car” staffed by two EMTs will respond to non-urgent, routine calls where a person only needs basic care.

Hennepin EMS Public Information Officer Mike Trullinger said it will help speed up the response on low-acuity calls triaged by dispatchers that are currently dealing with longer wait times.

“What if that was your loved one? Would you rather have them be alone or would you rather have a first responder be there?” Trullinger said.

Trullinger noted the Jump Car will never go to dangerous scenes or life-or-death emergencies, such as possible heart attacks.

Instead, the team will respond to situations like minor falls.

“Let’s say they sprained their ankle. They can splint it, they can put a cold pack on it,” Trullinger said.

The EMTs who will respond in the Jump Car typically work event medicine at concerts and sporting events.

They have done two eight-hour shifts in the Jump Car so far. Trullinger said that during one of those shifts, the EMTs were able to relieve police officers providing basic care to a 911 caller.

“We took over that scene until the ambulance got there, freeing them up to handle more police calls, so it was a win-win,” Trullinger said.

However, the union representing paramedics and EMTs is voicing some concern about the pilot program.

In a memo shared with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, the Hennepin County Association of Paramedics and EMTs called the program a “band-aid solution” and instead urged cities to boost hiring efforts of paramedics.

HCAPE Vice President Sam Erickson said EMTs staffing the Jump Car have less training and experience than paramedics.

Trullinger said, “It takes time to increase staffing. This is a program we hope is going to help alleviate that strain.”

The Jump Car will not transport any patients and if any call becomes an emergency, Trullinger said it will be upgraded to a full “lights and sirens” ambulance response.

Since this is a pilot program, Hennepin EMS will evaluate the program over the coming weeks and decide whether it should be discontinued or expanded.