New volunteer program helps re-establish emergency service to Fairplay area

April 17, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE |
  • Damien Teal, assistant chief of Sharpsburg Area Emergency Medical Service, stands in front of a chase unit at the Washington County Agricultural Center.
Photo by C.J. Lovelace

First-responder emergency service coverage was re-established to the Fairplay area as of Saturday afternoon through a new volunteer program known as Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

James Ulrich, acting chairman of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association’s EMS Committee, said the plan will provide EMS coverage using certified volunteer EMTs in the wake of the indefinite closure of the Fairplay Volunteer Fire Co.

The interim plan initially includes 24 volunteers from companies and agencies throughout the county, including Sharpsburg, Hagerstown, Smithsburg, Williamsport and Boonsboro, according to Damien Teal, assistant chief and operations manager for Sharpsburg EMS.

“We have a good number of people who are stepping forward, and I think once we get more people involved, I think more people will want to help out as well,” said Ulrich, chief of operations for Smithsburg EMS.

Sharpsburg EMS and Sharpsburg Volunteer Fire Co. were two of the lead agencies in implementing the plan, under which a vehicle will be stationed at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on Sharpsburg Pike or at other residences in the Fairplay area to respond to fire and medical calls.

The idea is to have a local chase unit — equipped with basic first aid and initial life-saving equipment such as oxygen and an automated external defibrillator — that can arrive on the scene of calls in a shorter amount of time than an ambulance or fire engine from one of the supporting companies, Teal said.

Ulrich said many of the volunteers have training both in EMS and fire, which can be especially helpful when responding to a fire call.

“That was actually a push that the community had,” he said.

Fairplay resident Tim Almany said the service that neighboring companies in Sharpsburg, Boonsboro, Williamsport and Funkstown have provided to the area since Fairplay’s shutdown has been great already and this new service only will improve response times, a major concern when the Washington County Board of Commissioners voted to suspend the fire company in late January.

“I think this is fantastic,” said Almany, who also served as a member on the Fairplay Task Force. “... They’ve done a tremendous job. Their service has been exceptional and residents of Fairplay truly appreciate the services that they’re providing.”

After receiving unanimous support from the county’s volunteer association in recent weeks, the plan came together rather quickly last week as county and state clearances were granted to put the program in motion, Ulrich said.

A Sharpsburg EMS chase unit was at the ag center on Monday, but Ulrich said other participating companies would volunteer their chase units for service as well.

“The most amazing thing about this is there’s been a lot of support, and I think everyone’s really happy to help this community get some type of first responder back in that area,” Ulrich said.

County Commissioner Jeffrey A. Cline went to greet EMS officials Monday at the ag center. He praised the cooperative efforts of the county’s volunteer agencies, saying public safety is paramount for him and his fellow commissioners.

“I’m very proud of all the hard work and agencies that worked together to put this in place,” he said. “Our volunteers, whether it’s fire or EMS, they’re very important to us. They save us millions and I appreciate their daily acts of heroism every day. I thank them for that.”

Along with a core group of certified volunteers in the Fairplay community, about 15 more from outlying companies have joined the initiative, Teal said, noting that the Neighbors Helping Neighbors plan will be evaluated every 30 days.

At the 90-day mark, the plan and response will be audited and reviewed by the same committees that voted it into operation, Teal said.

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