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County officials work to establish Fairplay medical response coverage plan

January 30, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

Establishing medical response coverage specifically for the Fairplay fire district is an immediate step Washington County Emergency Service officials are working on after the County Commissioners voted Tuesday to no longer have Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co. respond to calls, County Emergency Service Director Kevin Lewis said Wednesday.

Lewis said the commissioners directed him to create an immediate medical response coverage plan “to at least re-establish some coverage for medical calls.” He will discuss that plan with the commissioners on Tuesday.

As for the future, there are various options for emergency coverage in the Fairplay district, Lewis said.

Those include starting a new, independent fire corporation in the district, having another fire company create a substation in the Fairplay district, or splitting the Fairplay district up among other fire companies, Lewis said.

Lewis said there is no plan right now to split up the district.

“To me, that’s always an option. I can’t lie to you. It’s always an option that’s out there,” Lewis said.

He said splitting up Fairplay’s district was not an option as viewed by the task force, or by his division, but that the county commissioners ultimately would make a final decision.

The commissioners on July 31 suspended the Fairplay company and county funding because the company had a high “failed response” rate for emergency calls.

The commissioners at that time called for a task force to devise a plan with a course of action so the fire company could be reinstated.

In addition to covering fire calls, Fairplay was a first-responder for medical calls, sending people with first aid and medical training to medical calls prior to an ambulance’s arrival, Lewis said.

On Tuesday, the task force presented its recommendations to the commissioners, after which the commissioners voted. Their decision means the county will no longer provide funding or in-kind services to the Fairplay fire company.

Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.’s primary service area goes roughly from College Road to the north to Taylors Landing Road to the south, and from Downsville Pike to the west to the bridge at Devil’s Backbone Park to the east, Fairplay Fire Chief Leonard Heller has said. Fairplay’s primary territory includes the state prison complex south of Hagerstown, he has said.

Fire companies from Sharpsburg, Boonsboro, Williamsport and Funkstown will continue to cover emergency calls in the Fairplay district as they have done during Fairplay’s suspension.

Those four fire companies have had a .8 percent failure rate in covering emergency calls in Fairplay’s district during Fairplay’s suspension, Lewis said.
Fairplay had a “failed response” — it either didn’t respond within 10 minutes or didn’t respond at all — for 26.3 percent of its calls from Jan. 1 through May 31 in 2012. The “failed response” rate was 22.6 percent in 2011 and 12 percent in 2010.

While the county already operates some emergency companies, such as the special response team and emergency air unit, the county might not need to hire anyone to provide emergency medical service coverage in the Fairplay district, Lewis said. There are licensed people who live in that area and could possibly provide volunteer coverage, Lewis said.

“The intent is to, again, get the community to back and participate in service delivery,” Lewis said.

Personnel, a facility, and resources need to be worked out, he said. Asked if an ambulance could be stationed at the existing Fairplay fire hall, Lewis said “subjecting or putting people into places where you may not be liked is not really the best for human characteristics.”

During Fairplay’s suspension, the district was split up to determine what areas the fire companies from Sharpsburg, Boonsboro, Williamsport and Funkstown would serve as first-responders, said Dale Hill, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association.

If that division is to become permanent, Hill said the boundaries would have to go before the association’s Boundaries Committee, and then the association’s membership for approval.

Association members also would need to approve a plan for a new fire corporation or substation, Hill said.

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