Beaufort County to buy new ambulances, hire paramedics


Beaufort County will purchase two new ambulances, 10 chest-compression devices and computer software to improve emergency response.

“The new ambulance equipment will give Beaufort County better response time to medical emergencies. … The chest compressors will no doubt save lives, and the new computer software is a giant step in integrating all first-responders and medical providers,” Beaufort County Council Chairman Paul Sommerville said in a news release. The acquisitions were approved Monday by council.

The new ambulances will cost $150,000 each, and two other ambulances will be remounted on new chassis for $115,000 each.

Twelve paramedics will be hired to staff the new units, which will run 24 hours, seven days a week in both parts of the county, according to Phil Foot, county director of public safety. About $350,000 was approved for the new crews in the 2013-14 county budget that took effect in July.

“Having two new ambulances to respond to calls will save lives and allow more paramedics out in the community helping the public,” Councilman Jerry Stewart said in the release.

A 2010 review of the county's EMS service suggested adding the new ambulance crews, though consultants found that the county provided “a sound level of service.”

One of the new ambulances will be stationed in southern Beaufort County to help with the growing volume of calls there, and the other will be assigned to northern Beaufort County, to help with long distances first-responders sometimes have to travel, Foot said.

The county is still studying response data to choose exact stations for the new ambulances, but one will likely be stationed in the Bluffton area and one between Burton and Dale, he said.

In addition, the county will purchase 10 Lucas 2 chest-compression devices for $132,000. Once purchased, all 12 county ambulances — including the two new vehicles — will be equipped with the machines, Foot said.

The machines can perform CPR on a patient without interruption, which could help save lives, County Councilman Tabor Vaux said.

“If you've got somebody on the second floor, before, you'd have to stop CPR to get them down the stairs to the ambulance,” Vaux said. “With those machines running, you don't have to stop. That's huge.”

Council also approved buying a $2.5 million EMS software upgrade from Spillman Technologies of Salt Lake City.

The new software will replace a 20-year-old records-management, jail-management, computer-aided dispatch and mobile data system used by the Sheriffs Office, Detention Center, EMS, and 911 Dispatch Center.

Sheriff P.J. Tanner is eager to get the new computer software, which will reduce the number of times some data have to be entered and give first-responders instant access to information.

“As a dispatcher is taking information from a caller, the deputy, paramedic or firefighter in the field will now be able to see what the dispatcher is typing in real time,” he said in the release. “Having our first-responders see the information immediately makes the response time faster, allowing the person needing assistance to receive care faster.”

The software upgrade will be paid over seven years with money from an E911 special revenue fund and the Sheriff's Office, Emergency Management and Detention Center general funds.

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