By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
The Emergency Services committee has endorsed a county-wide first responder program and has encouraged Cumberland County Fire Chief and EMS Director Jeff Dodson to request the funds in his 2013-'14 budget to be considered by the budget committee.
City of Crossville Fire Chief Mike Turner and Deputy Chief Chris South attended the meeting and praised the city's first responder program.
"Sometimes we have to wait up to 10 minutes for an ambulance because they're all out on other calls. It happens and that is called a delayed response. Well, the first responders stay there with the patient until EMS arrives on the scene. The first responder program is one of the best things the fire department has ever done. It has saved lives. As a citizen you may ask, 'why do we need it?' If anyone you know has ever needed it, you know why. It's a program that will save lives," city of Crossville Fire Chief Mike Turner said.
Turner also emphasized that there is a team on scene for EMS to describe the situation and supply important information.
"A first responder can make the difference in a life or death situation," Turner said.
Noah Baker, a 14-year veteran paramedic with Cumberland County EMS, gave a PowerPoint presentation to the committee, which highlighted three program options.
"Many of our calls are simply for lifting assistance for patients who have fallen in the bathroom or bedroom and are in a spot where they can't get up on their own," Baker said.
The program, like the city of Crossville, would be under the medical direction and license of Dr. Mark Fox.
The first would simply be a lift assist program where volunteers from different agencies in various areas of the county would respond to emergency calls to assist heavy patients who weigh more than 275 pounds.
The volunteers would be paged out by a special tone.
Baker said they have roughly 45 volunteers that would staff the program, with 15 from Fairfield Glade, 15 from the Rescue Squad and 15 from various county fire department districts.
The cost would roughly be around $1,500 to help cover the cost of pagers to be repaired.
The second option would include all of the lift assist plus include a first class responder that has passed the American Heart Association Health Care Provider class.
The 45 first responder volunteers would respond for lift assist, cardiac arrest, chest pain and stroke.
Total cost would be roughly around $10,600 if an AED in each EMS ambulance district is included.
The last proposal would include all of the previous and a full first responder program that includes certification through the state of Tennessee. The class would be taught by a member of EMS and includes CPR training. These first responders would respond to calls for lift assist, cardiac arrest, chest pain, stroke and any life-threatening emergency call where there is a delay in EMS response. The first responder certification is good for two years.
All of these volunteers under all three options would have to be in good standing in their department in order to be a first responder volunteer. This option would be limited to a total of 20 members initially due to training and equipment costs and would roughly cost around $18,475 for the first year.
Baker explained there are many cases in which there is a delay in sending an ambulance on a call because they are already out on another call.
Dodson told the committee he estimated the cost to be roughly anywhere from $26,000 to $28,000 to implement the full program.
"You don't need a vote from this committee to put it in your budget," Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner, said.
"I'd like to have the support of the committee before I put it in my budget and take it to the budget committee. I feel like I need a recommendation," Dodson said.
"I'm not prepared to support it after just getting this packet a little while ago," Lynch said.
"I'd like to be able to have time to read it," Johnny Presley, 3rd District commissioner said.
Joe Koester, 5th District commissioner, moved to at least recommend the lift assist program as a starting point and put the first proposal in Dodson's budget.
Allen Foster, 4th District commissioner, supported the motion and it passed with Lynch and Presley passing on the vote.
The committee then recessed to go into the full county commission meeting.
The committee then planned on reconvening after the county commission met for a private session with county attorney Randal Boston in order to discuss a legal matter.