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UPDATE: Officials: New Emergency System Working Well

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UPDATE 10/21/2013 4:50 PM

So far, so good.

The Wood County Commission Monday morning got an update on a change in notifying local ambulance services of emergency runs.

911 Director Randy Lowe says the new system has worked in nearly every situation where it's been tried.

Emergency responders can now be "toned out" to be diverted from non-life threatening cases to higher priority emergency runs.

"They're going to continue with that, watch it over a period of time, and give us report as to how it works over a longer period," says Wood County Commission President Wayne Dunn. "But it's just adding that to the system. It's very simple, very easy to do."

The change is the result of a Labor Day incident where a Vienna woman died when an ambulance could not respond to her home quickly enough.

Local rescue crews were out at the time on other calls.

The 911 center will continue to update the commission on the new system's progress next month.
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UPDATE 10/3/2013 04:40 PM

Last month's death of a Vienna woman leads to new guidelines for handling 9-1-1 emergency calls.

Randy Lowe says in his nine years as 911 Director, he can't remember an event like what happened on Labor Day Weekend.

A Vienna woman died because the only ambulance available to respond to an emergency call had to be dispatched from Wirt County.

In the new system which went into effect late Wednesday, a special tone will alert Wood County responders to clear more routine calls as quickly as possible to respond to to other emergencies.

Lowe says other changes may be forthcoming.

"We will be monitoring it over the next week, until I can speak with the county commission, and give them that as a solution to the problem," Lowe says. "It is only part of the solution, because we are investigating other ways we can improve EMS services in Wood County"

In the Vienna incident, Wood County hospitals were not aware there were no ambulances available to respond to the call.

Periodically, local ambulance squads are conducting what are known as "routine transfers" when bigger emergency calls come up.

Besides the Camden Clark and St. Joseph's squads, the 9-1-1 Center can call in ambulances from Wirt County and Belpre.
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In some ways, it was a worst case scenario: the Vienna fire department is called about an unresponsive patient. The problem, at that moment, is getting an ambulance to the scene.

"We responded to locate the address, because we are not a medical responder," says Vienna Fire Chief Steve Scholl. "The ambulance was coming out of Wirt County. Our concern was the time involved in getting the ambulance there to assist this lady."

The patient later died. The problem was that local ambulances were out on what turned out to be lesser emergency runs.

If there was any way to sum this up, it might be: how do you define what is an emergency, and, in terms of response, what priority does it get?

"They would have to set their protocol, and how we would have to go," Assistant 911 Director Carl Sizemore told the Wood County Commission Monday.

"Some days, between emergency calls and transfers, our people pull their hair out," says Duane Weekley of the St. Joseph's Ambulance Service. "They may be an hour or two a day trying to fit everything in."

The 911 advisory board is being asked to come up with solutions.

"If you're in charge of contacting the carriers, having a meeting, reviewing the alternatives and coming back in three weeks and report what you find," said Commission President Wayne Dunn.

But part of the problem is that, to the person calling, there is no such thing as a minor emergency.


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