Responders want new radio set-up

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Western Carroll County Ambulance District (WCCAD) will consider whether to fund a new radio with its own frequency, at a cost of $2,500, for the Inspiration Point and Grassy Knob Emergency Medical Responders (EMRs, i.e., First Responders).

"We are not getting the tones," said Lynn Palmer, EMR Alliance coordinator.

The issue came up in WCCAD's monthly meeting Friday during Palmer's EMR Alliance report.

George Coffey, who volunteers with the Inspiration Point Fire Department (IP), said that during a recent accident near Butler Hollow, not all of the IP EMRs heard the tone-out signals.

He said because of radio problems, the EMRs didn't have enough help and asked Grassy Knob EMRs to be toned out.

"We were using people driving by to help tote these people out of the woods because our people didn't hear the tones," he said.

Tone reception is affected by a number of factors: whether the radio can handle narrow band or wide band frequencies; the location of a call, such as an accident that occurs in a valley; the location of a tower with a repeater relative to a radio; the amount of radio traffic during an incident; and atmospheric conditions.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that all law enforcement and emergency radio frequency users switch from wide band to narrow band by 2018.

Those currently using wide band frequencies will be able to use them until 2011, when those licenses will expire.

Last year, WCCAD funded replacement and modification of radios to narrow band frequencies for the western district's EMRs.

Currently, Grassy Knob and Inspiration Point share a wide band frequency with Eureka Springs.

Holiday Island has its own tower and frequency.

WCCAD Chairman Scott Link was not happy to hear the request for a new radio and frequency.

"We spent thousands on radios and 'We need more radios' just doesn't cut it," he said.

Nevertheless, he requested that Coffey write up something explaining the request.

"We need this written and succinctly spelled out," he said.

Link reported he heard back from WCCAD's attorney, George Spence, on the issue of purchasing an "ambulance" or rescue truck to be given to Holiday Island's EMRs.

The idea was for the Holiday Island Suburban Improvement District to own, maintain and insure the vehicle.

"In his legal opinion, it's like we would be trying to give a grant to Holiday Island, and we can't do that," Link said. "And we can't give away assets."

He said one solution is to look at contracting with Holiday Island to supply their own ambulance service, "but it's very complicated to get into that."

He said he told Spence WCCAD purchases items for Holiday Island's EMRs.

Spence responded that should be put into the contract with Eureka Springs to have Eureka Springs manage the EMRs, as the contract holder.

Commissioner Fred Pierson asked whether there were a way to call it an EMR rescue vehicle or ambulance and have it become part of Holiday Island's resources.

"The sticky wicket is, we're looking at someone to take on the responsibility of ownership without actual ownership," he said.

The question of how the vehicle will be used was discussed. Initially it was suggested it be used to transport backboards and other items too bulky to be transported in EMRs' private vehicles.

The truck would, however, be equipped as a Basic Life Support unit to transport patients if needed.

It could be enlisted as an Advanced Life Support unit with the presence of a Paramedic, who can administer IV drugs.

Its use as a transport vehicle was questioned by some in attendance.

"It could be used to get a patient out of the weather to work on him," responded Commissioner Bob McVey, former Eureka Springs fire chief.

Link suggested holding a meeting with Eureka Springs, as the ambulance provider, to discuss the issue further.

"We can own and manage an ambulance service, but would rather not," he said.

In other business, WCCAD:

  • Heard Palmer report all jumpsuits have arrived, and jackets are still coming in. The Hepatitis B vaccine still has not arrived. Triage tarps have been ordered and AED trainers have come in and been distributed.

  • Approved requests for payment for two oxygen regulators and two cylinders as backup for IP's EMRs.

  • Heard the financial report as follows: $6,159 in income for the month of August; $3,998 in expenditures; and a balance of $111,340 in the checking account and $275,363 in CDs for a total of $386,703.

    The next WCCAD meeting will be held Friday, Oct. 8, at 2 p.m. at the Holiday Island District Office at 110 Woodsdale Drive.

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