Emergency responders still seeking county's OK

Monday, November 21, 2005

GREEN FOREST -- "We are not going to give up," said Suellyn Fry, when referring to ongoing efforts by the Osage Valley Volunteer Emergency Responders to be recognized.

The group has been trying to provide first responder services to south county residents ever since disbanding from the South Carroll County Fire Department earlier this year.

Standing in their way is an opinion offered to the quorum court by Attorney Scott Jackson to not allow the volunteers to be toned out to local emergency situations.

Although they've been stymied at home, Fry said they were asked by the state health department to respond to Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. "We are certified through the state, and we are a recognized organization," explained Fry.

At a meeting Tuesday night, team members discussed issues involving the legality of responding to emergency situations at home.

"The county government said we could not respond," said Fry. "If we respond to an emergency call heard over the scanner, we will be accused of jumping a call."

The OVVER team is comprised of 12 former SCCFD members who resigned in February after communication failures between the board and its volunteers came to a head.

"There has been enough hard feelings and we don't want to make it worse," said Fry. "We just want to do the right thing."

Part of the problem, Fry explained is that we cannot get an answer to the liability issues and we lack a legal description for a "first responder."

To that end, Fry was scheduled to travel to Little Rock on Thursday for a health department meeting that planned to establish the perimeters of what a first responder is. "Once we do that, there should be no problem," she said.

"Although there is nothing that definitely defines a first responder, they do have to be certified," said Fry, " and ours have a lot more training than what is required."

She also noted that there are two counties in Arkansas that have stand-alone responder units. "They should set the precedent," said Fry.

In the meantime, the OVVER members are not allowed to respond to emergency situations. "It's difficult when we aren't able to respond," said Fry. "Some of these people we've taken care of for years, and it's really hard to listen (and not respond)."

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