HFD Chief: Cardiac arrest patient waited 25 minutes for medic unit to arrive

Rank and File say city desparately needs more ambulance/medic crews

HOUSTON**After the story aired, Chief Sam Pena presented HFD call time records that showed that the patient waited 25 minutes, not 29 minutes as first reported. Chief Pena’s initial investigation into the matter is presented below.**

Sources within the Houston Fire Department said that a cardiac arrest patient waited 29 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, while firefighters on the scene administered CPR.

The patient died, according to one source.

The incident first reported to have happened Wednesday, actually happened June 28, according to records later provided by Chief Sam Pena

“They’re doing their job, performing CPR and a unit does not arrive for 29 minutes, and it’s heartbreaking for our men and women to do this,” Patrick Lancton, President of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, said Thursday.

Houston Fire Department Chief Sam Pena said Thursday he would review the matter to learn specifics.

Lancton and many rank and file personnel within the Houston Fire Department believe that there are not enough ambulance crews staffed in the city, and that this incident highlights the issue.

Lancton has long said that Houstonians are at a greater risk because the City of Houston has left the fire department understaffed and underresourced.

Chief Pena, Thursday, by email, provided detailed information about the city’s current emergency apparatus.

KPRC 2 Reporter Joel Eisenbaum, sent Chief Pena questions he answered via email:

My question is what is going on?

FMD (Fleet Maintenance) has maintained daily reserve ambulance unit availability, see attached daily reports. 5 units are available today.

6 new ambulance units are nearing completion of the build process.

Our manufacturer is waiting on an additional 21 chassis from Ford. This will total 27 new ambulance units that we have funded and procured, plus at least 16 approved for FY24.

No fleet AC issues to report, confirmed this AM.

How many units are out of service?

We have 98 twenty-four-hour transport units, 5 Squad Units, 5 Peak-time units, and 10 EMS supervisor units in the system. Additionally, we have 88 Engine companies, 38 Aerial companies, 21 DC vehicles, and other technical and support units. That capacity is maintained daily.

The number of units at the shop fluctuates daily based on scheduled maintenance, unscheduled maintenance and repair, motor vehicle accident damage, etc. When the frontline unit requires attention by the shop, the crews are assigned to a reserve unit until repair on the frontline units is completed.

And how is the situation being addressed?

Regarding the ambulances, 6 new ambulance units are nearing completion of the build process, plus awaiting an additional 21 chassis from Ford. This will total 27 new units that we have funded, and at least 16 approved for FY24.

UPDATED RESPONSE from Chief Sam Pena

Date: July 14, 2023 To: Joel Eisenbaum, KPRC-TV Houston Subject: Incident Number xxxxxxxxxxxx

Mr Eisenbaum-

Sylvester Turner


Samuel Peña, Fire Chief 500 Jefferson, 17th floor Houston, Texas 77002

T. 832-394-6702 F. 832-394-6780 www.houstontx.gov

In response to your inquiry regarding Incident #xxxxxxxx, the call was reported to 911 on June 28, 2023, not on July 12, 2023. All emergency response units were in service that day, including 103 Ambulance transport units, 5 squad units, 10 Ambulance Supervisors, 88 engine companies and 38 aerial companies.

Incident #xxxxxxxx was reported to 911 and dispatched as a Fall – Possible Cardiac Arrest. According to the incident report, units arrived to find an unconscious patient, unresponsive and without a pulse. The cardiac arrest was unwitnessed with an approximate downtime of 15 minutes. According to the incident report, all standards of care were initiated and performed appropriately. The patient’s status remained unchanged throughout treatment and transport.

The unit response times to this incident are as follows:

  • Units Dispatched on 6/28/23 at 12:57 PM
  • Units Enroute on 6/28/23 at 12:58 PM
  • Engine 86 Arrived on Scene at 1:04 PM
  • Ambulance 68 Arrived on Scene at 1:13 PM
  • Medic 70 Arrived on Scene at 1:22 PM
  • Ambulance Supervisor Arrived on Scene at 1:24 PM
    We reviewed the availability of other westside ambulance units at the time of dispatch to this incident (12:57 PM on June 28, 2023) and will be investigating the Hospital delays and cause of elongated hospital and unavailable times for the following ambulance units:
    Council Members: Amy Peck Tarsha Jackson Abbie Kamin Carolyn Evans-Shabazz Dave Martin Tiffany Thomas Mary Nan Huffman Karla Cisneros Robert Gallegos Edward Pollard Martha Castex-Tatum Mike Knox David Robinson Michael Kubosh Letitia Plummer Sallie Alcorn Controller: Chris Brown
  • Medic 78: o ArrivedatMemorialCityHospitalat11:59AM,Availablefordispatchat
    1:34 PM (over 1.5 hours at the Hospital)
  • Medic 75: o Arrivedathospitalat12:07PM,Availablefordispatchat1:40PM(over
    1.5 hours at the Hospital)
  • Medic 83:

o On assignment at 10:58 AM, Available for dispatch at 1:09 PM

  • Medic 49: o ArrivedatHospitalat11:29AM,Availablefordispatchat1:03PM(over
    1.5 hours at the Hospital)
  • Medic 10:

o Dispatched to alternate incident at 12:10 PM, Available for dispatch at

1:09 PM • Ambulance Supervisor 69:

o On assignment at 12:57 PM, Available for dispatch at 1:11 PM • Medic 60 and Medic 86 were on alternate assignments.

Our goal is to maintain units available to respond to true emergencies. In a busy EMS system with a significant transport rate like ours, maintaining unit availability is impacted by an increase in EMS call volume during the day and delays at the Hospitals due to Emergency Department (ER) overcrowding.

To begin addressing the increased EMS call volume, the Houston Fire Department added 5 Peak-Time ambulance units to the system beginning last year, mid-FY2023. These units are in service for twelve (12) hours a day, 7-days a week, to augment the 24-hour ambulance transport units we staff each day. In addition, we continue working with all our hospital partners and receiving facilities in our jurisdiction to address the long wait times at ERs.


Samuel Peña Fire Chief