County Changes Ambulance Dispatch Protocol
Moore County has changed the way emergency responders get dispatched to calls following an incident in the Seven Lakes West community.
At Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, Seven Lakes West resident Max Foley spoke of the early morning this past July when his wife woke with an erratic heartbeat and blood pressure. Foley called 911, and after a delay, a volunteer emergency medical technician from West End arrived in a pickup.
“Why wasn’t the ambulance from West End dispatched?” Foley asked in his address to the board. “With heart problems, time is of the essence. I have since found out that the ambulance dispatch priority for our area is West End, Pinehurst, Aberdeen, the Airport, Vass, and then Carthage.”
Since the West End unit was unavailable, an ambulance from Pinehurst was summoned, but the responders were stopped by a locked gate and had to circle six miles to enter the gated community.
While Foley said he had “nothing bad to say” about the responders, it took 90 minutes from the time he made the 911 call for his wife to reach the hospital in Pinehurst.
“That's too long,” he said. “Things worked out all right, but it might’ve been different.”
This past April, emergency management officials realigned county response districts to improve efficiency. As a result, the Seven Lakes West area was divided between the Seven Lakes and the West End districts, which has sometimes resulted in frustration on the part of area residents.
“I’ve received about 47 emails on this subject,” said Commissioners’ Chairman Larry Caddell. “Since it is a pressing issue for you, it is a pressing issue for us.”
Saying that “we’ve got a problem we’ve got to fix,” Caddell asked Emergency Manager/Deputy Director Scot Brooks if 911 could dispatch units from Seven Lakes and West End at the same time to prevent the same type of incident from happening again.
“We used to do that ‘shotgun’ approach, but it is expensive and inefficient to send multiple units to the same call,” Brooks said. “Also, once a truck is on-scene, it is tied up. The next emergency would have to wait, which is why we went to a tiered response. We try not to send three times as much as needed.”
Brooks said that the issue of the closed gate was already being addressed.
“We didn’t know we had an issue with these gates until recently,” Brooks said. “We’ve issued orders for these gates to be repaired and brought up to code.”
Others from the community spoke before the board on the issue.
“Residents of Seven Lakes West are very concerned about the recent changes that happened to our EMS coverage,” said Jane Sessler, of Seven Lakes West. “As of April 1 the community has been split between the Seven Lakes and the West End stations. Prior to that, the community was serviced entirely by Seven Lakes.
“Ambulance drivers (from Seven Lakes) knew to enter directly through the gates … with easy access to our neighborhoods.”
Sessler said that with the new division, first responders are not always familiar with the area.
“None of the changes to the system have improved the efficiency or the efficacy of our emergency services,” she said.
On behalf of Seven Lakes West residents, Sessler asked that the board “return our assignment of the EMS response areas back to the Seven Lakes station. At the very least, please establish a cooperative dual-call system that can be effective immediately.”
As board members deliberated the issue, Caddell asked Brooks how soon a dual-call system could be enacted. This arrangement would direct EMS staff to dispatch the next closest available truck to calls when a district’s own truck is responding to another call.
In the case of Seven Lakes West, it would clear the way for a West End or Seven Lakes ambulance to respond to a call when the other is engaged, thus eliminating the need to wait for a Pinehurst ambulance to arrive.
Brooks said such an arrangement could be put into place as early as the next morning. The motion to authorize responders to alter their protocol was passed unanimously by the board. Seven Lakes residents who attended the meeting applauded the action.
Caddell addressed the audience following the vote.
In other board news, a decision that was postponed from a previous meeting regarding the ongoing debate about the county veterans memorial came back up again Tuesday night.
At the Aug. 21 meeting, Commissioner Tim Lea asked his fellow commissioners to pass a motion directing County Attorney Misty Leland to draft a nonbinding document pertaining to the joint ownership of the veterans memorial and adjacent property between the county and the memorial committee.
The issue, which has been debated in recent weeks by the board, is the result of closed session minutes that revealed the board was considering the sale of land adjacent to the memorial to a Bojangles’ restaurant.
The motion ended during the earlier meeting in a 2-2 tie with Lea and Nick Picerno for and Caddell and Jimmy Melton against. Commis-
sioner Craig Kennedy was absent from the August meeting. Kennedy, who agreed with Caddell and Melton that a committee was the best format in which to decide the issue, broke the tie this week by casting a third vote against passing the motion.
Lea called the decision a “stalling tactic.”
“I’ve found that in eight years on this board, when we want to delay something, we form a committee. We’ve been working on this for five months. It’s time to move on,” he said.
But Caddell said there was no rush, unlike with the earlier ambulance issue.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking time and deliberating something, and I think Jimmy (Melton) and his committee are more than capable of ironing out these details,” he said.
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