Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns EMSA?

EMSA is a public trust authority of the Tulsa and Oklahoma City governments. EMSA contracts with a private ambulance service to provide emergency medical care and dispatching.

How many ambulances does EMSA own?
EMSA owns and operates 99 ambulances (52 stationed in central Oklahoma and 47 in northeast Oklahoma).
Why do I see EMSA ambulances parked at several locations around town?
EMSA uses system status management to position ambulances at strategic locations to better respond to emergencies. That ambulance parked at a location such as a convenience store in the morning is not the same ambulance you may see there later in the day. Units respond to emergencies and are rotated to new posts continuously throughout the day and night.
What is the most common type of medical emergency?
Emergencies range in type and severity and can happen to anyone. EMSA responds to many breathing and cardiac problem calls, motor vehicle collisions and other trauma calls, and much more.
How fast is EMSA required to respond?
In Oklahoma City, Edmond and Tulsa, EMSA is required to respond to Priority 1 calls within 10 minutes and 59 seconds 90 percent of the time. For Priority 2 calls, EMSA is required to respond within 24 minutes and 59 seconds 90 percent of the time.

Priority 1 calls are critical situations, such as heart attacks, strokes, drownings and traumatic motor vehicle collisions.

Priority 2 calls are non-life-threatening situations such as, falls, broken limbs and minor injury motor vehicle collisions.

For the suburbs of the metro areas, EMSA must respond to Priority 1 calls within 11 minutes and 59 seconds 90 percent of the time, and 24 minutes and 59 seconds 90 percent of the time for Priority 2 calls.

The Tulsa-area suburbs include Bixby, Jenks and Sand Springs. The Oklahoma City-area suburbs include Lake Aluma, Mustang, Nichols Hills, The Village, Valley Brook, and Arcadia.

When I call for an ambulance, why does the fire department come too?
Firefighters serve as first responders on some emergency calls in the EMSA service area. Though EMSA ambulances can arrive on the scene of emergencies before or at the same time as the fire engine, firefighters provide valuable assistance during the first few minutes – hence the name first responders. Firefighters help by extricating patients from vehicle collisions and burning buildings, managing hazardous materials and assisting EMSA paramedics with lifting and other tasks.
How is EMSA funded?
About 80 percent of EMSA’s operating budget comes from patient billing revenues. The rest is covered primarily through EMSA’s EMSAcare subscription program. Membership fees come from subscribers who enroll in the program directly with EMSA or indirectly through a monthly EMSAcare fee placed on their city utility/water bill.

EMSA receives no general fund tax dollars from the cities of Oklahoma City or Tulsa. However, a few cities which EMSA serves still choose to provide funds through general fund tax dollars.

Due to inadequate reimbursement by Medicare and the cost of providing services to uninsured patients, most ambulance providers are unable to operate on patient billing revenues alone. But, EMSA’s EMSAcare program fills the gap, providing an affordable, stable funding mechanism for citizens while minimizing or eliminating general fund tax subsidies.

How does EMSA set its rates?
Rates are set by the EMSA Board of Trustees and require approval by the beneficiary cities.
How much does it cost to ride in an ambulance?
The charge for an EMSA emergency transport is $1,300 plus mileage. Non-emergency transport charges begin at $345. There is no charge if a patient is not transported.
How many miles does an EMSA ambulance drive in a year?
The average EMSA ambulance covers more than 50,000 miles each year. EMSA’s ambulances combine to travel approximately 3 million miles each year.
How much does an ambulance cost?
A new ambulance costs more than $100,000. Fully stocked, an ambulance can cost up to $150,000.
What should I do when I see an ambulance driving with its emergency lights activated?
According to Oklahoma law, when an emergency vehicle activates its lights and sirens (“running hot,” in insiders’ terminology), drivers are to yield by pulling to the right and stopping until the emergency vehicle passes. The emergency unit is then able to run hot unimpeded in the left lane. All traffic is to yield, regardless of the ambulance’s direction of travel. The only exception is if you are on a highway divided by a median and see an ambulance coming from the opposite direction.
Why is the ambulance driving so slowly?
Often times when the ambulance is driving slowly it means that the Paramedic is in the patient compartment providing patient care while the EMT drives to the hospital. Driving too fast can be detrimental to the patient and the crew.
Why do some patients get taken to the hospital non-emergency? Are those people less important?
No. Depending on the severity of the patient’s illness or injury, the patient is not always taken back to the hospital with the lights and sirens on. No patient is “more important” than another but some are obviously more critical than others.