During the Monday meeting of the Cedar Bluff Town Council some lengthy discussion was given as to why the fire department is continuing to run a large volume of medical calls with EMS. Councilman Jerry Sprayberry made the following statement.
Mayor Tammy Crane and other council members say that the department is not supposed to be running medical calls.
Despite Councilman Sprayberry’s comments, more than half the fire department membership has either an Emergency Care Provider Certification through the Alabama Fire College and or an Emergency Medical Responder Certification through Floyd EMS which allows firefighters to perform a number of Basic Life Support duties.
The Emergency Medical Responder certifications were received through a 45 hour course hosted by the Cherokee County Emergency Management Agency and taught by Floyd EMS Medics, training included bleeding control, bandage and splinting, oxygen administration, patient assessment and other topics. Those that completed the course were presented with ‘jump kits’ by Floyd EMS. Those kits include basic first aid items and assessment equipment.
Councilman and Mayor-Pro Tem Norman Burton proposed that the city send a letter to the E-911 Board and to Floyd EMS requesting they request the fire department only in absolute emergency situations and not on a routine basis.
Those that are opposed to the fire department responding to medical calls say that it is due to liability reasons.
On Tuesday, WEIS Radio News reached out to the Cherokee County E-911 Director and to Floyd EMS, responses from both entities can be read below.
CHEROKEE COUNTY 911/EMA DIRECTOR SHAWN ROGERS|
First of all as the Director of Emergency Management and 911 I want to say thank you to all of our first responders. Thank you for your commitment, dedication, compassion, and willingness to serve the citizens of Cherokee County. Whether it’s day or night our first responders respond with the true heart of a public servant to help those in need. In the past five years our first responders have dedicated more time towards training and learning new skills than ever before. Just this year we’ve trained and certified over 50 firefighters across the county to the level of Emergency Medical Responder along with numerous other training topics related to the fire service. That’s not to mention Law Enforcement, EMS, and Rescue. To me that speaks volumes to their mindset. A mindset to be the best they can in order to serve you the best they can.
In response to the discussion of Cedar Bluff’s Town Council during their last council meeting regarding Cedar Bluff Fire Department no longer responding to medical emergencies unless it is an “absolute emergency”. Every caller that calls 911 and requests an ambulance to respond to where ever they may be, in their mind it is an emergency. The mortality rate would be unrealistic if every 911 dispatcher took the time to screen each 911 call to determine if a call is an “absolute emergency”. When a caller calls for help the dispatcher obtains as much pertinent information as possible and dispatches the appropriate responders to that call, in less than two minutes.
When taking 911 calls for the City of Centre, the Town of Cedar Bluff, and within the Ellisville Fire District the fire department for those areas are not automatically dispatched like the other fire departments are. This was done at the request of the city, town, or fire district. When a 911 call is received for those areas and it’s a medical emergency, 911 dispatches an ambulance only. Based on the information provided to EMS, EMS makes the determination if a fire department response is warranted. One must remember an ambulance has two personnel onboard responding to a call. The Cherokee County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments along with Cherokee County 911 has established a Fire Dispatch Protocol that establishes dispatch guidelines for the fire service. When the Cedar Bluff Town Council made the decision back in 2014 for the Cedar Bluff Fire Department to stop responding automatically to medical emergencies unless requested by EMS, 911 amended the fire dispatch protocol to reflect that and since then 911 has complied with Cedar Bluff’s request.
The Cedar Bluff Fire Department is only dispatched to medical related calls at the request of EMS. Once EMS requests fire department response whether it be lifting assistance, a delayed response, or a call where EMS simply believes they may need assistance from the fire department, the Cedar Bluff Fire Department is dispatched. Once that request is made to Cherokee 911 by EMS we are obligated to dispatch a fire department. If we fail to dispatch a fire department and it ultimately affects patient care, Cherokee 911 could be liable. If for some reason Cedar Bluff Fire Department was unable to respond, we would dispatch the next closest fire department.
Cedar Bluff Fire Department currently has 14 firefighters on their active roster. Out of those 14 firefighters 7 are trained to the level of Emergency Care Provider and 4 are trained to the level of Emergency Medical Responder. Both of these certifications allow those 11 firefighters to provide Basic Life Support at different levels. While the Emergency Medical Responder is a more advanced certification, both allow for initial patient assessment, taking and monitoring vitals, splinting broken bones, dressing and bandaging wounds, controlling uncontrolled bleeding, providing patient updates to the responding EMS unit, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and using the automatic external defibrillator just to name a few. Each Cherokee County firefighter that successfully completes the Emergency Medical Responder certification is trained to provide care at a more advanced level such as child birth, oxygen administration, insertion of an oral or nasal airway along with assisting the EMT’s and Paramedics with continued patient care. Many times EMS personnel may request the fire department to assist with packaging and loading the patient into the ambulance or request fire department personnel to ride in with them to the hospital to help provide continued patient care. At the end of the day it’s all about patient care. Whatever is best for the patient is what needs to be done.
I take great pride in ensuring our first responders are provided training and continuing education opportunities. I want them to possess as much knowledge and skills as possible. Through a cooperative effort and a good working relationship with our EMS partners we’re able to accomplish that when in regards to medical emergencies. As far as liability goes, that’s what we train for. If a fire department has personnel trained to provide Basic Life Support, personnel readily available to respond to provide life-saving care prior to EMS arrival, but don’t respond because the town council tells them not to, one could argue that brings more liability than just responding like they should have in the first place. This is especially true if EMS requests them.
From January 1, 2019 until August 13, 2019 Cedar Bluff Fire Department has been requested by Floyd EMS to respond to 56 calls which is an average of 7 calls a month. During the same time frame Floyd EMS has responded to a total of 230 calls inside Cedar Bluff Fire Departments primary response area. This data was obtained from the Cherokee County 911 Computer Aided Dispatch system which logs and tracks every emergency call in the county. I think it’s safe to say based on the facts and data provided the Cedar Bluff Fire Department is not over utilized by Floyd EMS. I also think it is unfair to try and place blame on the former Cedar Bluff Fire Chief who is now a Paramedic for Floyd EMS based on inaccurate observations from council members. Once again, thank you First Responders for all that you do!
RESPONSE FROM FLOYD EMS CAPTAIN OF OPERATIONS ANDY FAIREL|
Floyd EMS remains privileged to be the chosen 911 provider for the citizens of Cherokee County. It’s an honor for us to work alongside other public safety professionals in this county including the volunteer staff of the Cedar Bluff Fire Dept. The decision by Floyd EMS professionals to request a response from the fire department on medical calls is based on the individual need of the citizen requesting emergency services. Floyd EMS considers all other responding agencies to be our partners in caring for the communities that we serve.
We will continue to follow this story as more develops.
On Thursday morning, Councilman Sprayberry contacted WEIS Radio News, to state that he wanted to stress he has NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER with first responders – and wanted to make it clear what he IS opposed to, is firemen responding to medical calls that they are not qualified to handle.