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Ref: North Carolina community consolidates emergency services

RockyMount Telegram

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Nash emergency services aims to improve preparedness efforts

By Justin Boulmay
Rocky Mount Telegram
Friday, December 28, 2007

NASHVILLE – The Nash County Department of Emergency Services intends to strengthen emergency preparedness for employees and communities in 2008.

In 2006, Nash County consolidated three ambulance groups in the area. The following year revealed how the department has matured and resulted in good employees, standardized training and equipment, said Brian Brantley, director of emergency services for Nash County.

"We are looking at consistent service throughout the county," Brantley said.

The emergency services department serves as an umbrella for four divisions – Emergency Medical Services, 911 Communications, Fire Services and Emergency Management.

The county increased ambulance fees in 2007 to match what counties in the region charge – basic life support fees went up to $250, and advanced life support costs up to $400. Figures on how much money was gained by the increase will not be available until the end of the fiscal year.

The Bailey Fire Department also assumed the responsibilities of the Mount Pleasant Rescue Squad, which had to disband because of a decline in participation.

The department hoped to have a new 911 phone system in place in 2007, but it likely will be bidded out in early 2008, Brantley said. The upgrade will provide information that the current – and older – software does not, such as records of the number of incoming and outgoing calls.

"The system we have now is a good system, but it's outdated," Brantley said. "It does not provide us the records we would like to have ... and so we are looking at a new 911 phone system."

Brantley said the department filled a full-time position for emergency management, which will enable that division to pursue goals such as creating community emergency response teams.

"What we hope is, in most large-scale emergencies, 72 hours is (what) it takes for the government to get real organized and start getting resources here," Brantley said. "What these community teams would do is help that community be prepared and also help look after themselves for the first few hours until the government can get resources and supplies in place."

A drill is scheduled for the first quarter of 2008 to teach Nash County employees how to work in an emergency operations center. The center includes computers and telephones and serves as a hub for requests from local agencies, which are passed on to the state and federal governments.

"We've got a lot of new people in the county in different positions, so we want to get them trained on how to work in an emergency operations center," Brantley said.

The department plans to offer as many as two weekends of training for volunteer fire chiefs and their management teams, in addition to its school for rookie volunteer firemen.

Fire Services also worked with fire departments and rescue squads to increase the members of the Nash County Search Team – it went from eight volunteers to more than 30. The search team is charged with finding missing persons. The team's participants come from local volunteer fire departments, rescue squads and the emergency services department.

"These people are trained to look for clues on the ground," Brantley said. "We can call in search dogs from different counties, so that search team has been very important to us over the years and been very successful. We feel like it's a great thing that our volunteers are stepping up and working with us to provide that for the community."

Copyright 2007 Rocky Mount Telegram. All rights reserved. - Rocky Mount Telegram

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