Hope Unger – Austin American-Statesman

Austin-Travis County EMS on Wednesday began housing medics inside Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to improve response times as a record-high number of passengers are flying in and out.

EMS officials said that due to the increase in call volume to the airport, ambulances were unable to respond to other emergencies in the areas. Chief Robert Luckritz said many options were considered to address the number of calls it receives at the airport and determined that most patients did not need to be taken to a hospital by ambulance.

“We looked at some creative solutions with our partners at AUS and came up with the idea to house paramedics inside the airport,” Luckritz said. “Which will not only dramatically decrease our response time but also lessen the impact these incidents have on our overall system.”

In the 2022 fiscal year, officials said, Austin-Travis County EMS responded to more than 1,600 calls to the airport.

Medics will be housed in temporary crew quarters, according to the agency. Once construction on a permanent crew quarters is finished, it will be on the secure side of the terminal near Gate 20 on the west side of the airport.

“The well-being of our passengers is critical at all touchpoints during their journey at AUS,” said airport CEO Jacqueline Yaft. “We had our busiest year on record last year, which meant more passengers in the terminal and cars on our roadways during busy travel times. Programs like these are important to uncover opportunities to further strengthen the services we offer to the tens of thousands of people flying in and out of AUS each day.”

There has been a steady 12% increase every year in EMS calls to the airport since 2014, officials said in a news release. It said the patients are treated and released onsite about 65% of the time. The total number of passengers traveling through Austin-Bergstrom in 2022 was 21,089,289, a 55.4% increase from 2021 and the airport’s busiest year ever.

Officials said that airport and EMS teams worked hard to get the program in place in time for the spring festival season, including South by Southwest, a time that historically has seen a dramatic increase in travelers.