Charles City leaders search for ways to address emergency needs
With fire and EMS being a priority in its upcoming budget, Charles City’s Board of Supervisors looked for ways to address the critical need. But in order to know what they are working with, they received feedback during a Mar. 7 work session.
Steve Wood of Emergency Transport Services (ETS) provided county leaders with insight of the difficulties that both firefighters and EMS workers face in Charles City. In his 15-minute presentation, Wood presented statistics that showed the difficulty for county emergency services received last year.
According to his presentation, Charles City placed 79 calls for mutual aid to assist with fire and medical issues, with accounting for approximately 16 percent of all calls taken. Of those calls, 64 were addressed by New Kent.
Wood said a combination of not enough volunteer firefighters along with only a few available during the day has affected Charles City to the extent of a critical situation.
“When volunteers are on staff, they address as many calls as they can while ETS fills in the rest,” he said. “With peak times taking place in the middle of the day, our staff makes most of those runs.”
Most of the emergency calls took place between 8 a.m.-4 p.m. in Charles City in 2017, making up 53 percent of the total volume. Not helping the fact is that with only one ambulance, it usually takes emergency vehicles longer to respond, despite being at the national average.
“Once we receive a call, it takes anywhere from 10-13 minutes to respond,” Wood commented. “But when our ambulance in NUA (No Unit Available) because it is transporting a citizen to a hospital, it usually takes a while before it returns to the county.”
That amount for an ambulance to return is 80 minutes according to the ETS representative. Another note is that there were some instances last year when responding to a call took longer than 30 minutes.
“When we get a call for down the county [near Williamsburg], it takes us at least 15 minutes,” Wood said. “It’s very difficult when there aren’t any volunteers to assist us on calls.”
At the request of County Administrator Michelle Johnson, Wood provided a recommendation with a first-step solution to address the issue.
“I believe a daytime crew would benefit this county,” he said. “They can work during the peak hours starting at 8 a.m. and ending at either 4 or 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
“They will only work when the volunteers aren’t available,” Wood continued. “They would be paid by the hour.”
An additional ambulance would be needed if a daytime crew is hired. Charles City recently applied for a grant for the emergency vehicle but was denied. According to Wood, in a worse case scenario, it would cost the county an additional $145,600 a year on top of the amount the company is currently receiving.
Supervisors commented briefly on the issue and reiterated that safety for the county citizens was a priority.
In an unrelated issue, Charles City’s Board of Supervisors elected to push the budget presentation for fiscal year 2018-19 to the Apr. 24 regular meeting. The request was made by Johnson as she and the new finance director will use the additional time to review requests by department chairs.