What is Basic Life Support (BLS)? What is Advanced Life Support (ALS)? Why is there a difference?
Basic Life Support is the keystone to Emergency Medical Services. The primary functions of BLS includes providing care and transportation of lower acuity emergencies, as well as providing the transportation and initial care to higher acuity emergencies. BLS providers are trained to recognize and administer (or assist in the administration of) certain time-sensitive medications, such as rescue inhalers, epinephrine auto-injectors and oxygen. BLS ambulances are staffed with at least one Emergency Medical Technician, that has undergone nearly 200 hours of training and been tested to local, state and national standards.
Advanced Life Support units are staffed with Paramedics or Registered Nurses, and have undergone a minimum of 1,000 hours of training and education. ALS provides care for higher-acuity emergencies, such as fluid replacement through intravenous administration, means to correcting abnormal heart rhythms, and advanced methods of ventilating a patient who is unable to breathe on their own. All ALS providers are tested and certified to state and national standards, as well as locally by their agency's physician.
Both BLS and ALS providers are required to perform competency tests as well as continuing education to maintain their certifications.
How is it determined if I will receive BLS or ALS?
Once you call 911, you are presented with scripted questions by a trained and certified emergency medical dispatcher. These dispatchers are trained to send the appropriate resources while you are being asked these questions, so it is imperative that you remain with the dispatcher and answer the questions to the best of your ability.
I have an emergency on my hands! Can't I just dial 911 and yell "Send an ambulance!" and hang up?
This is not recommended and may result in a delay. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 2,000 EMS workers annually experience injuries related to violence. The dispatcher will make every effort to ensure the safety of the EMS crew; however, if there is doubt, the police department will be sent first.
Why wouldn't I want ALS all the time? They have more training and can do more!
Unfortunately it's not as simple as that. Just as you would not go to a cardiologist because you have the flu, or you would not seek the engineer that designed your car to change the oil. EMS is designed to send the correct resource based on the information provided. Another important consideration is whether or not your insurance will cover the cost. If your insurance doesn't cover the cost of services provided, you may be responsible for the balance.
Cost?? I have to pay for calling for an ambulance?
The vast majority of emergency services in Pennsylvania are non-profit organizations that are not funded municipally. This means that the organization must raise its own revenue. In addition, the cost of a new ambulance, fully stocked, can easily exceed $200,000. Billing for services rendered as well as our annual membership drive is the most effective way to allow us to continue providing our services while keeping the tax dollars low. By obtaining a annual membership, you are not responsible for any portion of bill not covered by insurance. Click here if you are interested in a membership.