Yew: Shenandoah County companies don't respond or arrive late too often
By Sally Voth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue Chief Gary Yew offered grim response time statistics -- citing the Woodstock Rescue Squad in particular -- to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday morning.
During a nine-week period beginning Oct. 1, first-due companies failed to respond to 163 calls, and another 42 calls had a response time longer than the county's standard of 11 minutes, he said.
The response time is how long it takes for personnel to leave a station after a call is dispatched.
"Two-hundred-five times in nine weeks where we did not meet what I consider citizens' expectations or standards that we've set," Yew said. "Two-hundred-five times in nine weeks.
"The national standard for an EMS response from the time the call is dispatched to arrival is eight minutes. Is it realistic to think we will ever get to an eight-minute dispatch to an arrival in a county with these geographics? No.
"[But,] 20-30 minutes to get an ambulance to somebody is not going to work. We have no depth in our system."
Yew recounted a phone call he received Dec. 5 from a woman "crying uncontrollably."
"Her husband had seized, this is 7 o'clock on a Sunday evening," Yew said. "It's extremely scary. They're shaking violently, usually fluid's coming from their mouth, experiencing difficulty breathing. You can imagine what it's like for this wife. No volunteer response on a Sunday evening."
The call was sent to the Woodstock Rescue Squad, which is supposed to have volunteers available when county staff isn't there, Yew said. Career staff isn't there on weekends, he said. No Woodstock volunteers responded, and the call ended up being handled by county staff in Toms Brook, Yew said.
"[The Woodstock volunteers] weren't on a call," he said. "They failed three dispatches that evening. My struggle is what do I tell his wife? She doesn't want to hear that this is part of a volunteer system that we can't always count on."
District 4 Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli asked whether calls would be dispatched to companies that are available rather than those that are the first-due for an area.
"That's going to come from me as a general order," Yew said.
He said he planned to meet with the captain and president of Woodstock Rescue Squad on Tuesday night to discuss the issue.
"I know it's very difficult because they're volunteer," District 3 Supervisor David Ferguson said. "I guess I don't feel like I can demand that they be there. I just want to know whether or not I can expect coverage or not."
Yew said he could sympathize with not always being able to get enough volunteers during the day.
"But, 7 o'clock on a Sunday evening with a healthy active roster I don't understand," he said.
Yew said this is an across-the-board issue, not just a Woodstock problem.
"We depend upon volunteers in this county tremendously," Ferguson said. "There's a lot of revenue would be required to replace the volunteer staff. We don't have that revenue."
Ferguson said the Woodstock Rescue Squad has gotten new officers within the past couple of months. A representative from the squad couldn't immediately be reached Tuesday.