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Statesville Fire Department responding to medical calls

The Statesville Fire Department has begun responding to all medical calls in the city to which the Iredell County EMS teams are dispatched, to determine if such a response will enhance first responder coverage for the city without imposing a significant fiscal burden on taxpayers.

At the July 14 meeting, the city council granted the department two months to respond to and gather data on the medical responses, after which a decision will be made to either continue or abandon the program.

“On March 14, our department earned international accreditation through the Center for Public Safety Excellence,” said Fire Chief Dennis Hutchens. “The purpose of the accreditation process was to determine if our department was providing services at the highest level possible and to identify areas in which the department may improve.”

One suggestion that emerged from the Center for Public Safety Excellence review was that the fire department begin responding to all emergency medical calls within the city limits. Up until now, the department has only responded to a small percentage of medical calls in the city, leaving most to be handled by Iredell County EMS.

EMS has three ambulances housed in Statesville covering an area of approximately 100 square miles. However, there are instances when all three Statesville units are out on other calls or unavailable. When this happens, the county dispatcher must then pull in units from either Trinity or Troutman, potentially delaying response. The new fire department response, using existing firefighting apparatus, would help minimize those delays.

Hutchens said fire department personnel are trained to Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) level and have been compensated for this training since 2005. “In addition, our personnel are strategically stationed throughout the city to provide response to any emergency within six minutes from a citizen dialing 911.”

The council was generally supportive of the new initiative, though former firefighter and councilman Jap Johnson had some reservations about sending fire equipment to medical calls.

In order to establish some baseline data for the cost and impact of responding to rescue calls, the department began unofficially taking in an increased number of medical calls in May. The result was a total increase of 446 additional miles logged on four engines and a fuel cost increase of approximately $540. “There were no instances of adverse impact on any other services provided by the fire department during this initial review period,” Hutchens said.

The Statesville Fire Department, a fully-paid department, has 71 members operating 11 pieces of apparatus from four fire stations.