04/20/08 — Rescuers get help from first responders

View Archive

Rescuers get help from first responders

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 20, 2008 1:26 PM

Even with a paid, paramedic-level county emergency medical service, Wayne County Emergency Services Director Joe Gurley knows the county still depends on a large first responder force to help out in emergencies.

He explained that oftentimes, the first responders -- a network of volunteers operating out of various fire departments and EMS sites -- play an important backup role when the county's call volume increases. But that's not all they do.

At several fire departments they also provide high-level rescue services, as well as extrication services.

Extrication, Gurley explained, used to be something done by emergency medical services. But when the current system was fully created in 2002, the decision was made to geographically farm that responsibility out to the county's volunteer fire departments. Today, 11 of the 28 provide those services.

"With the EMS, we decided to focus on emergency medical service care," Gurley said. "It appeared to us to be more appropriate to locate that (rescue) service to the fire departments, and that was the trend across the state."

Since then, other high-level services have been added, such as the Arr-Mac Water Rescue team, made up of volunteers from the Arrington and Mar Mac fire departments.

The El-Roy and Dudley fire departments also are investigating the possibilities of adding high-angle rescue -- rescue from multi-story buildings.

Also included in the first-responder network are medical first responders, whose qualifications can range from basic emergency medical technician to paramedic.

Currently those teams are at the Rosewood and Mar Mac fire departments.

Elsewhere in the county, Grantham, Mount Olive, Seven Springs, Fremont and Goldsboro have EMS volunteers filling those positions.

Their responsibility is to run second calls -- those calls that come in while the primary EMS team is already responding to another.

The goal, Gurley explained, is to not let response times suffer even during times of heavy call volume.

"It gives us an extra set of hands," he said. "And we've got the county covered pretty well."

And now, with Fremont's EMS volunteers hoping to add other rescue services to their mission, Gurley said the county will likely be evaluating its entire network.

"The way the Wayne County EMS plan is written, those (rescue services) are not eligible functions of the EMS service," Gurley said. "But we're not only going to be looking at their request, we're going to look at the whole rescue network and evaluating it."