Published: Nov 27, 2012 06:30 PM
Modified: Nov 27, 2012 06:29 PM
CHAPEL HILL - The Orange County commissioners recently approved a $15.6 million plan for upgrading the countys emergency medical services and 911 capabilities over 10 years.
The recommendations grew out of a $28,000 study to improve EMS technology, staffing, data, training and planning. Consultant Steve Allan, of Solutions for Local Government, collaborated with a local work group, EMS representatives and volunteer fire chiefs.
The work group agreed with most of Allans recommendations but suggested moving up some items, particularly those that could lead to faster ambulance service.
In 2011, Orange County EMS responded to 10,719 emergency calls, while handling special events, fires and other public safety incidents. The average response time was 16 to 18 minutes. The accepted standard, set by the National Fire Protection Association, is 12 minutes.
Commissioner Earl McKee complimented Allan for including the groups ideas in his plan.
He received a lot of input from this work group, more so than I think he was possibly expecting, McKee said. I think that by working with the work group, it improved the plan for the county.
The county has ordered another ambulance and is training staff now, Assistant County Manager Michael Talbert said. The county also ordered OSSI software to improve 911 communications and reporting, but it could take a year to install.
The county will examine whether the locally developed Page Track software, a GPS-based system used by county fire departments, is compatible with OSSI, he said.
Other immediate changes include hiring a data systems manager and a training and quality assurance officer.
Over time, the county will need to add more ambulances and staff, schedule more vehicles from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., outfit three more EMS staging areas and hire and train 17 full-time telecommunicators, the report stated.
It also will need four new paramedic supervisors and additional studies of
• fire department response capabilities,
• the countys EMS station needs and
• whether ambulances can be based at existing fire departments.
EMS system changes implemented this year could cost the county $147,000. The remaining suggestions would be included in next fiscal years budget and the countys capital investment plan.