BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Captain Rani DeMarco prides herself on responding to emergency calls that come in to her unit.
But that's been a tall order since 2011, when a lean budget forced the city to cut seven firefighter positions. That means crews at Fire Station One have to respond with less staff.
"This is the truck that would shutdown if we don't have enough people. And if we're really short, which happens a lot, we're only in this engine," says Capt. DeMarco.
Less staff means more time to respond. An engine crew has to wait for a transport truck to arrive from another station to take someone to the hospital.
"It could be minutes, it could be seconds, but for someone who can't breathe, one second is one hour," says Capt. DeMarco.
The lack of staff has increased delayed response times by twenty seconds citywide. Firefighters say it could be the difference between life and death.
"From a medical standpoint there's a lot you can do in twenty seconds, save heart tissue, and save the brain if someone isn't breathing," says Fire Chief Ray Carter.
Come April, this will all change. The City learned of a $1 million grant from FEMA that will fund seven firefighters for two years. It means the EMS truck at Station One won't just be sitting there one-third of the time.
"Once we get all these people hired back on, the truck will be back in service 100% of the time," says Capt. Carter.
With 200 more calls coming in to dispatch in 2012 than the previous five years, the grant is coming at just the right time.
Capt. DeMarco's unit will be back up to full staff, with all the tools they need to save lives.
The Boynton Beach Fire Department is one of seven statewide that received the grant.
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