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Ambulance squad in Waynesboro gets federal boost

March 06, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster says he frequently hears the nation's largest cities appeal for federal funding to bolster their emergency services.

Yet, Shuster realizes that first responders in his 15-county Congressional District could easily be called to substitute for personnel working on a large-scale disaster.

For instance, he said, if Harrisburg, Pa., emergency workers were helping at a Philadelphia catastrophe, the first responders from Cumberland and Franklin counties could be asked to serve as replacements in Harrisburg.

"Those are the places that would be called upon to backfill. When we are looking at this national emergency system, it's not just one area," said Shuster, R-Pa.

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As Shuster spoke Monday, three ambulances and a half dozen Waynesboro Ambulance Squad crew members flanked him during the announcement of a $38,400 grant awarded to the squad at the West Main Street facility.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program money will fund 80 percent of the cost of a PlymoVent Vehicle Exhaust System, said Anthony Todd, who became Waynesboro's ambulance squad chief in December 2006.

Some of the squad's nine paid staff members and 20-plus volunteers check the vehicles' oil level, lights and other functions daily in the headquarters' bay, Todd said.

"While they're running, the exhaust fumes are building up," he said. "We worry about people's health."

The exhaust system will remove the fumes from the bay and reduce the squad's insurance costs at the same time, according to Todd.

"We were able to, working with the Waynesboro Ambulance Squad, bring home some federal money," said Shuster, who explained that emergency medical services are eligible for the firefighters grant program administered by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of State and Local Government Coordination and Preparedness.

Shuster commended the ambulance squad for working through a complicated grant application process and thanked several other partners, including state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin.

"I see everyday - we have our office here in Waynesboro - the ambulance up and down the street," Rock said.

"After 9/11, we've seen an uptick of spending a lot more money" on emergency services, Shuster said.

"Basically, throughout the 9th District, 95 percent of the people who provide these services are volunteers," Shuster said, praising volunteers who "basically have a second job."

Todd said that, as ambulance squad chief, he sees volunteerism declining and ticked off a list of possible reasons including a busy society and fears about being sued.

"We do 155 calls a month on average. That's a lot for our little area," Todd said.

New volunteers, who undergo a two-month screening process, can be plugged into a number of service areas, including work at weekly bingos and a banquet committee, if they are unable to run calls.

"Very rarely do we turn down volunteers," Todd said.

Shuster presented the Waynesboro Volunteer Fire Department with $22,800 from the same grant program in October 2006.

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