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May 21-27 is National Emergency Medical Service (EMS) week.

Posted on Thursday, May 25, 2017 at 4:42 pm

By June Pugh:

May 21-27 is National Emergency Medical Service (EMS) week. According to Jason Deal, Moore County EMS Administrator, it is a time for the community to say “thank you” to those who provide this important service. Although in Tennessee, Moore County is at the bottom of the list in size and population, it is at the top in all aspects of emergency management capabilities. Credit goes to years of excellent planning by Deal and other emergency staff . The 911 fee on your phone bill is administered locally by Moore County Emergency Communications Board and it paid for the new center and its upkeep. The Operations Center opened in 2016. Prior to that, EMS and 911 Dispatch Service were sharing tight quarters at the Sheriff ’s Department. “The public probably does not realize how busy EMS is,” observed Deal. As Moore County’s population has grown and aged and sporting events and tourism have increased, so has the need for emergency service. In 2014, EMS answered 535 calls, in 2015, 590 calls and in 2016, 640 calls. EMS has six full-time employees divided into 3 crews consisting of an emergency medical technician (EMT) and a paramedic or two paramedics. The crews are as follows: Dwight Sullenger, EMT and Brian Maxey, Paramedic; Rheannon Thomas and Judy Huff er, both Paramedics; Jackie Burton, EMT and Dwayne Clark, Paramedic. EMTs provide basic care and Paramedics are trained to do EKGs, administer drugs and provide airway support. The crews work under the guidance of protocols approved by supervising physician, Dr. Ben Cottroll.  Moore County EMS has 3 ambulances. At least one is staff ed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Two are staff ed during events using part-time staff or overtime. According to protocol, patients are transported to the nearest, most appropriate hospital. When feasible, it is “patient’s choice,” although the nature of the care needed and where it is available is the deciding factor. Deal reports that Moore County ambulances carry the most equipment possible according to State protocols. “We are top notch in terms of equipment and what we can do. We go above the minimum required.” Each crew works a 24 hour shift every 3rd day. The new Emergency Medical Operations Center provides comfortable private sleeping quarters, lockers, kitchen facilities and a lounge area for the shift on duty. “It is,” said Deal, “their home away from home.” Jackie Burton, the current EMS Director, deals with day to day operations. Deal’s administrative focus is on looking ahead and being ready for the “what-ifs.” He explained that his job is to think of all the bad things that could happen and then plan how to deal with them. Because he is certified as a firefibfghter, a deputy and a paramedic, his job involves the coordination of those three services. The Mayor’s Office keeps Deal informed of upcoming events. With Frontier Days in June as an example, Deal and Burton will decide the number of ambulances needed and will line up staffing for them. Deal will work with the Sheriff ’s Department to plan for security needs. He warehouses extra equipment such as radios that can be provided as needed. He prepares for threatening weather, mass casualties and bomb threats by contacting the schools and businesses on the Square to determine how many people could be sheltered in those buildings. All of this information is then shared with the departments involved at a coordination meeting. Deal says experience has prepared him to plan for possibilities. “I graduated from MCHS in 2001. I went to EMT school at MTSU and started working here full-time in 2002. In 2004-5, I went to Paramedic School at Columbia State Community College. In 2011, I went to Vanderbilt University Medical Center and got my Critical Care license and started flying with Vanderbilt Life Flight.” Around 2007, Mayor Peggy Gattis asked Deal to take over the EMS. He was both Director and Administrator for 5 years. Deal has had and continues to have extensive emergency training through the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA). Currently he is working on-line to receive his Bachelor’s Degree in Emergency Services through Bethel University. Much of what Deal is studying is threat assessment, threat analysis and mitigation, which, he explained, is being proactive in preparing for possible future events using reliable data and formulas. Two examples of mitigation tools Deal included in the design of the Operations Center are a gas powered generator to keep the Center’s power on and a kitchen large enough to prepare meals for emergency workers if needed. EMS attempts to keep up-to-date records of citizens who have medical equipment in their homes and they have portable generators to deploy in the event of a power loss. A tour of the Emergency Center should make any Moore Countian proud. There is a 16 person conference room that is used for meetings by the 911 Board, the Sheriff ’s Department and other agencies related to public health and safety. Next there is a large conference room referred to as the “war room,” where quarterly planning meetings are held. In the event of a disaster, representatives from Sheriff , Fire, Highway, Water, Duck River, EMS, Jack Daniel’s and others would meet to coordinate efforts. Deal is planning a Disaster Response Training Drill for sometime this summer. The County has either one or two 911 dispatchers on duty at all times. They are County employees who work 12 hour shifts. There is a third dispatch desk that is used during large events. A large bay area houses ambulances and a small mass casualty trailer. There is a larger trailer furnished by Homeland Security that is on standby for Region 6. If your family has used EMS or if you rest easier knowing they are there, it is time to express your appreciation. The address is EM Operations Center, 1333 Main Street, Lynchburg, TN 37352.