CRC addresses rescue squad challenges

Published 9:32 am Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC) is taking preliminary actions to address regional challenges rescue squads in the area are facing, including dwindling volunteer numbers, the rise in paid career rescue squad members, revenue recovery, establishing mutual aid agreements between neighboring counties and conflicts between rescue squad personnel, both between neighboring counties and between members of the same squad.

CRC Executive Director Melody Foster proposed taking a survey of area rescue squads to learn more about whether they are volunteers or career firefighters, or whether they use revenue recovery.

Prince Edward County Buffalo District Representative C.R. “Bob” Timmons suggested collecting data of the area rescue squads to better determine what actions need to be taken.

He said while operations with the county’s rescue squads have gone well, and have extended assistance to Buckingham and Appomattox, he said the fire departments have seen struggles, and said it would be important to look further into potential solutions.

The CRC discussed concerns regarding area rescue squads during the July and August meetings.

CRC Chairman Tommy Gleason said he has worked in rescue squads in the past, and said personnel need assistance, as items such as bookkeeping can often fall by the wayside while rescue squad members are busy responding to calls.

“They don’t have time to sit around and do all of the things,” Gleason said during July’s meeting. “They forget real easy because they’re doing their jobs, and their emergency jobs, and their families … They need help, and we need to assist them in pretty much any way we can.”

One issue concerned the increased qualification needed to be a rescue squad member and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

Taylor Harvie, county administrator for Amelia County, said he took a class to be qualified for the rescue squad. He said in addition to his responsibilities as a county administrator, it took him one year to complete the class.

“I think the bigger question, what’s the reason for this stress we’re having is the stress the mandates that are put on us from the outside,” District Four Supervisor Morgan Dunnavant said during July’s meeting. “Why don’t we collectively send the message to Richmond and up the line from there, and the status quo was working with our volunteers. Ya’ll changed the rules, and made it more difficult for us to obtain these volunteers. Roll the rules back. We were getting along just fine before.”

Nancy Carwile with the Charlotte County Board of Supervisors said while the increased qualifications has created challenges, she said the additional training can only help, especially in the presence of an emergency.

“If we actually had a volunteer fire department and a volunteer rescue squad, and they came out, and misapplied whatever they were supposed to do, and somebody died or somebody got hurt, or a house (got) damage it shouldn’t have, they’re going to sue these volunteer fire departments, and ultimately the county,” Carwile said during the July meeting. “Ultimately, I mean if you’ve got a child has problems, seizures or whatever, and you call the rescue squad and your untrained neighbor comes and does the wrong thing, you’re going to be upset. I don’t care whether you live in the town or out in the country.”

Buckingham County Administrator Rebecca Carter expressed concern about the mutual aid agreements between residents, and expressed concern that the revenue recovery program created conflicts between neighboring rescue squads.

She recounted a story over the past weekend where a 2-year-old boy was reported to be unresponsive in Buckingham.

The call was transferred to Cumberland County. Cumberland rescue squad officials reportedly said they were not authorized to come to Buckingham, but said they could treat the child if the father transported him to the county line.

“I worry about it all of the time,” Carter said during Wednesday’s meeting about the county’s rescue squad situation, also mentioning conflicts with the Buckingham County Volunteer Rescue Squad and the Scottsville Volunteer Rescue Squad.

She said the county held an open house in June for residents interested in volunteering, and said the county allocates approximately $10,000 for rescue squad personnel taking training courses.

Another concern was about potential abuses of the rescue squad system, where rescue squad personnel have had to respond to situations that did not turn out to be emergencies.