CUMBERLAND – In order to gain some type of protocol related to the ongoing complaints received from citizens pertaining to rescue squad response time in Cumberland County, the Board of Supervisors received a report from a joint meeting that was recently held with the Cumberland and Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squads and the County's Sheriff and dispatch.
The purpose of the facilitated meeting was to design a protocol for dispatching rescue calls for timely response, according to Supervisor Tim Kennell, District Two, who sat in on the meeting as a member of the Emergency Services Committee and gave the report to the Board during the April 12 meeting.
In March, the Board of Supervisors instructed the County Administrator to secure paid ambulance firms as an option to be contacted when the County's dispatch were unable to receive response from the County's rescue squads when emergency calls were made.
The goals of the group's work were to minimize the tones put out by the County's dispatch, improve response time and improve communications between the agencies, and improve membership within the volunteer organizations.
“These people give up their time. They are not paid,” he said. “…These people go out and save people's lives… It's amazing what these folks do…but because we have these organizations sometimes communications break down and the upward flow of membership and the change of leadership.”
The new task of reducing the frequency of tones being called out by dispatch was a joint effort by those in attendance for that meeting on April 7 and now, the agencies are asking for the Board's support while the plan is implemented.
The plan includes that all tones are to be at two-minute intervals and should identify the service area, address, and brief call description, Kennell described to the Board.
The first tone would be for the primary servicing agency; the second tone would be for the primary serving agency and then for mutual aid (Cumberland and Cartersville Rescue Squads); and then the third and final tone would be to the primary service agency, mutual aid and a paid agency.
“The objective being is that you don't get that call back saying, 'please transport them yourself,'” said Kennell. “That's unacceptable. They have agreed to that plan and it's all on paper and that plan is basically in place today.”
With regard to improving the communication between the two rescue squads, Kennell noted that it is “paramount” in making the new plan work.
During the meeting, it was noted that the Cumberland Rescue Squad didn't have a day crew to run calls during the week.
“They just didn't have the volunteers to fill the spots, but yet dispatch was toning Cumberland and toning Cumberland,” he said. “And then toning Cartersville. So we had a loss of four minutes.”
From now on, if Cumberland does have a day crew available that new line of communication will now be open and dispatch will know and so will the Cartersville department and the same goes for the Cartersville squad, according to Kennell's presentation.
The new plan also allows the two agencies to work together by joining together to make a crew in times of need when there is, for example, a driver from one squad is available and an EMT from the other is available to run a call.
“There have been cases of missed calls very simply because a driver may only be available in Cumberland and answers a tone and an EMT may only be available in Cartersville for a tone and Cartersville didn't have a driver and Cumberland didn't have an EMT. Those two need to be able to communicate with themselves and find a way to do it,” he said. “There are still some bridges to cross in the communication area but they have agreed to the protocol of the tones…”
Kennell noted that the two agencies need the continued support of the County as the new protocol begins.
“We certainly have a start and we should be responding to citizens right now better than we have in the past,” he continued.
After the update, Chairman Van Petty, District Three, addressed the new plan and said that the meeting was a good way to work through the protocol for the new tones and begin the process.
Those working through the details during the meeting were Sheriff Darrell Hodges; Kennell; Tim Baber, president of the Cumberland Volunteer Rescue Squad; Pearl Mayers, captain of the Cartersville Volunteer Rescue Squad; Dennis Ownby, for Cumberland's dispatch; Cyndi Bassinger, vice president of Cumberland Rescue Squad; and Kelly Hale, acting president of the Cartersville Rescue Squad.