Pike County Times
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Pike County Fire Department Discusses Medical First Response License and Reissues Jump Bags to First Responders
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - The Fire Department has been the subject of discussion and questions by commissioners and those who have been sitting in Commission meetings over the past couple of months.

The Fire Department program that is in place now is the same as it was when Chief Henderson and Randy Snyder were in leadership for the Pike County Fire Department. It is a volunteer program with protocol and training mandates that are in place. When there is an emergency call, first responders and fire personnel are dispatched by 911 along with the contracted ambulance service to handle our emergencies. Our current ambulance service is South Georgia/Grady EMS.

Our volunteers respond to the scene, assess the patient, and gather information about medications and the transport destination. Fire personnel assist with getting the patient to a stretcher as well as loading the patient into the ambulance and provide assistance as requested by ambulance personnel.

The Pike County Fire Department has been discussing the possibility of obtaining a Medical First Responder License for the county. This is a permit issued by the State of Georgia that would allow volunteers to provide services by licensed Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT’s). This is similar to an ambulance license issued through the state though Fire Department volunteers will NOT be transporting anyone to a hospital. The County Commission has the final say on Fire Department policy and procedures so this was discussed in county meetings.

Questions have been asked about Fire Department protocol in Board of Commissioner meetings over the past few months as new procedures are being considered for approval. www.pikecountytimes.com/secondary/BOC10.25.16.html is the first mention of the Fire Department Medical First Response and www.pikecountytimes.com/secondary/BOC11.9.16.html has a copy of Standard Operating Procedure as well as further discussion in Section M of the Medical First Response/Medical First Responder License.

Chief O’Barr and County Manager (CM) John Hanson explained that the county does not have a First Responder License right now and that it limits what services can be provided. “We are looking to add another level [of] service to enhance the service that we offer now and that Grady is now providing,” said Chief O’Barr.

There have been no problems implemenation of the current program. However, questions were asked when volunteers who had been issued jump bags were told to turn in their jump bags in August of 2016. Chief O’Barr advised that the county needed to follow state law and that included inspecting each jump bag to find out what was in them and ensure that the only items in the bags included equipment that county volunteers were allowed to carry. Items that needed to be restocked were replaced as well.

There was a delay while the County Fire Department contacted the State of Georgia to find out what equipment could be carried in the trauma bags in personal vehicles. While jump bags were being reviewed and restocked, volunteers were advised to pick up their jump bags from an apparatus/fire truck. Each truck has a basic trauma bag on it.

Most jump bags have been returned to first responders at this time, and all of the trucks have new jump bags that will help first responders as they help out on an emergency scene. The jump bags are first aid bags that can be carried in personal vehicles belonging to volunteer fire fighters. Any additional equipment that is needed will be maintained on the trucks. The county will NOT be doing anything at all with medication.

The timetable on receiving this Medical First Responder License is unknown at this time, but it is being submitted to the State for approval.

Current SOP includes attending 1 station meeting per month that includes training and attending calls/doing training every quarter. All personnel will be required to follow standard operating procedure (SOP) as outlined in the SOP manual, and all disciplinary action is conducted by the Fire Chief and County Manager.

As of middle December, Pike County has approximately 20 to 22 members of the Pike County Fire Department who have jump bags. Training for our volunteers ranges from the National Registry Medical First Responder (which the State does not license as a medical provider) to EMT-Basic, EMT-Intermediate, and EMT-Advanced to EMT-Paramedic. Each volunteer has a specific amount of training and can perform that training on emergency calls.

People in the county have showed concern about citizen safety in case an ambulance is delayed on a call. At this time, according to information provided in the October 25, 2016 County Commission meeting, there is an 8 to 9 minute response time from Grady Ambulance. First Responders can help out on the scene until Grady is able to respond.

Even without the jump bags, first responders can still perform CPR, can control bleeding through direct pressure and elevation, and can give spinal immobilization by holding the patient’s head.

Grady has been consulted and is in agreement with the new Medical First Response License. County volunteers would be able to give basic life safety and oxygen under the new policy. Currently, volunteers can give basic life safety only. County volunteers will NOT be dispensing any kind of medication.

CM Hanson has met with Region IV Director Russ McGee, Deputy Director Ernie Goss, Fire Chief Rick O’Barr and the CEO from Grady EMS about this Medical First Response License since April, and protocol has been written and approved by the Pike County Commission. Grady EMS will continue to provide continuing education to the First Responders in our county as part of their contract, and all licensed personnel must maintain their CPR certification every 2 years and their license with the State of Georgia every 2 years. The new program will be overseen by Fire Chief Rick O’Barr, Assistant Fire Chief Rusty Smith, and the Medical Director, Dr. Cox.

Pike County has approximately 56 volunteer members at this time. Approximately 22 of those are licensed EMT’s. The county also has 4 auxiliary members who provide Gatorade, water, and meals to volunteers as they respond at emergency scenes. There are 8 members who are being provided in house training to become support fire fighters at this time. Chief O’Barr advised that the county is working with South Georgia/Grady EMS to provide EMS education for the county.

There have been a lot of changes over the past year with the Pike County Fire Department. The county is working with Georgia Forestry and asked for direction on how to respond better to fire scenes. There has been an emphasis on putting things in place to provide better protection to the county as a whole. There has also been an aspect on providing savings and accountability.

“What’s important is that we’re out there doing the job on these scenes making sure that our fire fighters have the training that they need and the equipment they need on the scenes,” said CM Hanson.

The Medical First Response License has been explained as a way to provide another layer of protection to the county as our first responders come onto the scene of an emergency call. Until this is approved by the State, the county will continue to respond according to current standard operating procedure and provide the best service possible to the citizens of Pike County.

[Note from the Editor: This article is the result of a series of questions that I asked the Fire Chief and County Manager. Please note that I have never been a first responder or a part of the fire department so I have asked questions from an activist/reporter’s point of view. To find out more about what I have covered over the years when it comes to the fire department, type the words fire department into the search box on my website.]