First responders worried APEC street closures could impact emergency response times

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, November 9, 2023
First responders worried APEC closures could impact response times
First responders are worried APEC street closures could impact emergency response times, hospital routes in San Francisco Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- How will APEC street closures impact emergency response times? There appear to be differing views from federal authorities and local agencies.

Aside from the security precautions for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum or APEC, the traffic congestion alone is expected to bring significant challenges for commuters, including ambulances.

RELATED: What to know about San Francisco road closures, security and more

Peter Green, a retired paramedic and 42-year veteran EMS consultant is getting briefed by local EMS authorities, including local Emergency Medical Services Authorities about the preparation efforts leading up to the international event.

Green told the I-Team, that San Francisco paramedics are worried - reporting the total time on task for 911 calls in SOMA, downtown, and Western Addition typically takes 45 minutes up to an hour. But with APEC?

"I think easily 90 minutes, potentially more," Green said.

Due to widespread closures in SOMA and Nob Hill, Green says response times will likely be a problem in North Beach, Fisherman's Wharf, parts of the Tenderloin, Union Square and then the eastern part of SOMA. He says first responders are primarily concerned about a stretch of Market Street downtown.

"Everyone's been told, 'oh Market Street will be open...' then they're hearing rumors that Market Street will be closed when dignitaries are moving through," Green said. "Market is an extremely key route for the ambulances."

RELATED: Day-by-Day timeline of APEC Summit in San Francisco

Green says EMTs are concerned about access to hospital systems that regularly deal with a high volume of transports, like St. Francis Memorial which will be impacted by closures on Pine Street.

"Doesn't seem like anybody knows what's going on there," he said.

In addition, paramedics have raised concerns to the I-Team about ambulances transporting critical care patients from the East Bay that will face blocked-off ramps on I-80 starting next Wednesday through Friday.

But the U.S. Secret Service says they have a plan in place to address that.

"There are certain places where those emergency medical response assets have been pre-positioned, we have a whole plan as it pertains to medical and health services whether inside our zone or outside our zone," said Jeremy Brown, Secret Service Assistant Special Agent in Charge.

VIDEO: Will SF be able to rehabilitate its image during APEC summit?

San Francisco faces one of the biggest challenges, to enhance the city's image and not give credence to what others are saying about ongoing issues.

Green says the ambulance centers most likely to be impacted will be at the corner of Polk and Post Street and Leavenworth and Clay Street.

The congestion is paired with EMT and paramedic staffing shortages.

"All providers right now are critically short of paramedics and they're short of EMTs," said Green.

According to EMSA, EMTs need early warning of demonstration zones because it may require additional overtime staffing.

"Has there been early warning of that?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked Green.

"My understanding from all my sources is there's been absolutely zero warning," Green said.

The U.S. Secret Service told the I-Team that communication with emergency responders would be seamless.

VIDEO: Will SF be able to rehabilitate its image during APEC summit?

San Francisco faces one of the biggest challenges, to enhance the city's image and not give credence to what others are saying about ongoing issues.

"The San Francisco Fire Dept., including emergency medical services is embedded with the Secret Service in various communication centers during this event," said Special Agent Brown. "Any activity, not just protest activity... that interrupts roadways or the ability of first responders to get to where they need to go will be known immediately."

But Green says that's not what local EMSA authorities and paramedics are reporting.

According to an email obtained by the I-Team from San Francisco's EMS Director Andrew Holocomb that discussed guidance for EMS personnel who are not working on an APEC footprint - "There may be situations in which a patient is transferred at a security checkpoint, so crews should review call notes closely."

According to Green, local EMTs still don't have clarity on how to pursue those transfers to ensure the quickest response.

"There seems to be a complete lack of information."

The ABC7 News I-Team has made multiple attempts to get clarification from the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management but has been referred to the Secret Service with no further explanation.

There's also concern about Highway 101 closures occurring as dignitaries arrive which could affect the transport of burn patients to St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco. Due to EMT staffing shortages, the state is considering hiring ambulance strike teams to assist from other areas.

For more information on traffic closures, click here.

Editor's Note: After the story aired, San Francisco Fire clarified how they are responding to these impacts from APEC. Officials say the department will be increasing staff throughout the entire week and they don't anticipate delayed response times due to the closures.


Now Streaming 24/7 Click Here

If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live

Take a look at more stories and videos by the ABC7 News I-Team.