Woman calls EMS response time in Avalon Park dangerously long

Avalon Park fire station coming in reaction to longer 911 response times

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist, Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Emergency-response times to Avalon Park are more than three minutes longer than the average response time for the rest of Orange County, a News 6 investigation found.

Orange County Fire and Rescue officials said they are aware of the problem, and a possible solution is coming, but not until late 2018.

When her 2-year-old daughter had seizures last week, Rachel Alderman said she was on the Orange County dispatch line for about 14 minutes before fire and rescue arrived at their Saffron Plum Lane home.

"I kept thinking, 'Where are they?'" Alderman told News 6.

[LISTEN mother calls 911]

Alderman called 911 after her daughter, who was sick, woke up from a nap with a 105-degree fever and started to have a seizure.

"She's having a seizure, she's having a seizure," Alderman told dispatchers.

Alderman said that dispatchers did a great job trying to calm her down, but she still spent those 14 minutes on the phone terrified for her daughter.  

"It was really scary with her having a fever and then having a seizure, I was in panic mode and like any mom, I was very scared," Alderman said. "She had three seizures within that 14 minutes so it was very scary."

Alderman said she's glad the situation wasn't more dire, but she worries for other parents in the community and what would happen if emergency officials couldn't respond in time.

"It's someone's life," Alderman said. "It could be the difference between life and death. Fortunately for me it wasn't that, but it could be if they don't have a solution."

The average response time in the Avalon Park Village area is nine minutes and 25 seconds, according to Orange County Fire Rescue. For the rest of the district, the average response time is six minutes and 52 seconds.

The reason for increased response times is more development and traffic in the area in the last few years, Orange County Fire Chief Otto Drodz told News 6.

He said Avalon Park is an area where there's a gap in coverage and in Alderman's case, the nearest station was tied up responding to a call so firefighters had to come from a station on Lake Underhill Road, which is further away.

"When the primary station is out, which happened in this case, station 85 was out on a call, then it's a domino effect. If 85 was out then we have to go to the next station over, which was (station) 83, which was further away," Drozd said.

The county plans to close on property for a new station in the Avalon Park area later this month with a possible opening in late 2018. The property for the future Station 87 is at Avalon Park and Crown Hill Boulevard.

Drozd hopes the new station will eliminate the coverage gap, but in the meantime he wants the community know that every call is important and he never wants anyone in Orange County to wait too long for first responders.

"That's why I take it so personally. Because for each of us, it is that one call, it could be our family member, our child, our mother, that's why we are very focused on providing the highest level of service as possible with the resources that we have," he said.

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