Southwest Atlanta gets new 9-1-1 hub, fire station to ease wait times

Mayor Andre Dickens and City Council Members speak at the opening of the first fire station in Southwest Atlanta on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (Olivia Bowdoin for the AJC).

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

Mayor Andre Dickens and City Council Members speak at the opening of the first fire station in Southwest Atlanta on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (Olivia Bowdoin for the AJC).

Along Campbellton Road in southwest Atlanta on Thursday, elected officials, fire department staff and curious residents crowded around a $4 million emergency services “micro station.”

The new facility is part of an effort by the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department to reduce 9-1-1 wait times that have been plaguing the city since the pandemic — especially in areas with less access to health care.

Crews in EMS Station 37 will respond to medical emergencies, in hopes of freeing up other stations and vehicles to respond to other types of calls. Atlanta Fire and Rescue Chief Rod Smith said that EMS Station 37 is a first-of-its-kind in the southeastern region of the country.

“This is a vital addition to our city’s emergency services network, especially here in southwest Atlanta” he said. “We all know the need and the need is real. And the people of southwest Atlanta deserve the same opportunity to survive a medical incident as we do anywhere else in the city.”

During a recent presentation to Atlanta City Council, public safety leaders said that while the city had made progress at reducing its wait times — the average hold time fell from 29 seconds to 24 seconds last year — they numbers still aren’t ideal.

Call volumes also increased by 14% to around 1.3 million calls in 2023, according to APD. A large chuck of those for medical help as opposed to fires.

On Thursday, city officials cited a hole in emergency services left when Wellstar Health System decided to abruptly shutter the Atlanta Medical Center in 2022, saying that that the city was taking on the responsibility of closing those health care gaps. Wellstar also closed it’s East Point clinic last month.

“Everyone knows now what a health care disparity actually looks like,” Council member Marci Collier Overstreet said of the southwest side of Atlanta. “Because for some reason, here in the heart of Atlanta, someone saw it fit to take away an important hospital.”

Mayor Andre Dickens and City Council Members speak at the opening of the first fire station in Southwest Atlanta on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024. (Olivia Bowdoin for the AJC).

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

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Credit: Olivia Bowdoin

Fire department working to remedy fleet issues

On Friday — and just a five minute drive from the emergency services hub — Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, Overstreet and Smith returned to the community for another milestone: the opening of Fire Station 36 in Princeton Lakes.

“We want to protect everyone in the city but, right here, we know we are the furthest community from a hospital,” Dickens, who grew up in southwest Atlanta, said.

The brand new fire station will replace station 31, which was shuttered last year when pervasive fleet issues and slow order times for new vehicles created problems responding to calls. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in November that, on any given day, anywhere from one to twenty fire engines and ladder trucks were out of service.

Reginald Rushin, chair of NPU-P, said that the previous fire station which was located just down the road didn’t even have women’s bathrooms.

“So we’ve been needing this fire station for quite some time,” he said. “This means so much to the community to have a brand new fire station on this side.”

Shortly after, Atlanta City Council dedicated around $18 million in funds to go toward purchasing new equipment — one ladder truck, eight fire engines, one utility truck, two rescue boats, 45 defibrillators and breathing devices.

Smith told the AJC this week that the city has over 20 pieces of equipment purchased and on the way to help with the struggling fleet, although supply chain issues have significantly dragged out delivery times. But, he said, the city should be receiving one truck next week.

The south side of the city was specifically chosen for the enhanced public safety resources — especially the EMS center — due to it’s aging population and high frequency of 9-1-1 calls.

“What we have is a large group of aging citizens on the southwest side of the Atlanta,” Smith said, “So this gives us an opportunity to get to them quickly with smaller vehicles, having the ability to transport them to a hospital if necessary.”

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