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Fire and EMS study to address first responder situation in Northumberland

Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 7:00 am

With concerns mounting over the limited number of regular volunteers running calls for Northumberland County rescue squads, the board of supervisors voted 3-2 to ask the Dept. of Fire Programs for a fire and emergency medical services (EMS) study of their county that would provide county officials with guidance on the situation. During the meeting, the question was raised of whether or not Northumberland County would have to create a paid EMS agency.
All of the county’s fire and rescue squads are completely run by volunteers.
“I don’t want to go paid,” said Dist. 4 Supervisor Thomas Tomlin, who had made the motion for the study. “The squads have very few EMTs who are regularly running.”
He noted one situation where the rescue squads was finally able to assemble a crew for responding to a call.
“Thank God there wasn’t a serious situation medically where it could have been a compromised patient,” said Tomlin.
While Tomlin confirmed to Dist. 3 Supervisor Jim Long that there was an active first responder program at the schools, student volunteers do not remain with the county’s volunteer fire and rescue squads on a long-term basis.
“We are obligated by code to provide EMS, in whatever fashion, form,” said Tomlin, who added that any recommendations made through the study would not be legally binding, nor would it incur any additional cost to the county.
He said the study would take roughly six months and incorporate input from local fire, rescue and law enforcement on what the county can do to address the need for more first responders.
Tomlin, Long and Dist. 2 Supervisor Richard Haynie voted in favor of seeking the study with  Dist. 1 Supervisor Joseph Self and Dist. 5 Supervisor Ronnie Jett in opposition.
“I would think we would come up with a plan within less than six months,” said Jett.
Long, while having voted for the study, said there would be problems if the county were to have a paid EMS organization.
“I understand that. You’re going to lose volunteers,” said Tomlin, who also pointed to costs. Lancaster County budgeted $835,924 for their paid rescue services in fiscal year 2014. But Tomlin did add that volunteer squads would still be needed.
Haynie said volunteers for the county’s fire and rescue squads “have done an…

—Read the full story in the March 19 issue of the Northumberland Echo, on stands now!