Action likely needed to stop missed first responder calls

Fluvanna County may need to do something to fix a problem with missed calls by its fire and rescue organizations, the Board of Supervisors learned at its meeting Wednesday night (April 19).

Cheryl Elliott, emergency services coordinator, said that Lake Monticello first responders are unable to respond to 15 percent of first responder calls, which are medically-related calls in which time is of the essence. Other fire and rescue organizations in the county can have difficulty as well.

“This doesn’t mean that the fire company is not responding to structure fires. It doesn’t mean that when someone is having a heart attack…they’re not responding,” Elliott said.

When one company is called to respond and cannot answer, another company will be called. But that counts as a “no response” by the first company, Elliott said.

Some top fire and rescue personnel in the county dispute these numbers or the way in which the data is collected.

“What are we going to do about it?” she asked. She urged supervisors to consider whether the county has enough first responders available, and if not, to look into recruiting and training more. The county’s last first responder class was two years ago and included 12 to 15 students, she said. She suggested that the county consider holding a new class.

Lake Monticello Rescue is experiencing a decline in volunteers. “Getting the crews so that they can run consistently is difficult with busy schedules, and a lot of our volunteers are aging and want to retire for good,” Elliott said. There have been days in which the organization operated without a complete crew.

“If it goes unchecked we will have to consider adding another crew,” she said.

The contract crew that assists Fluvanna Rescue has “very good” response times, Elliott said. Two and a half minutes elapse between when a call comes in and when the crew hits the road. It takes an average of 13 to 14 minutes for the crew to reach the scene “anywhere in the county,” she said. They remain on the scene for an average of 16 minutes, then spend 35 minutes transporting a patient to the hospital.

Falls and fractures are the most common cause for rescue calls, Elliott said. Breathing difficulties and cardiac or chest pains come in second. Motor vehicle accidents are the third most common reason for a call.

In contrast, motor vehicle accidents are the most common reason for a call to the fire department, she said. Next comes brush fires, followed by smoke investigations and structure fires.

Cost recovery, which charges patients for ambulance trips to the hospital, has brought in $452,000 in the nine months that have elapsed in fiscal year 2017. The average trip nets $404, Elliott said, and there is an average of 125 trips per month.

Radio system

The county’s E911 radio project is on schedule to be complete in early July, Elliott said. Tower construction ought to be complete in early May and the system will turn on later that month. Coverage testing and training will begin in June. 

Louisa County plans to join Fluvanna’s radio system, and Madison and Greene Counties may join as well. “Our system was built to host both Fluvanna and Louisa without any upgrades,” Elliott said. Fluvanna and Louisa will share the system’s core and split its costs equally. Each county will carry responsibility for its own towers.

SPCA

The county recently renegotiated its contract with the Fluvanna SPCA, which provides pound services. The county will now pay $6 per capita rather than $5, which amounts to a $25,691 increase to the $120,000 the county already pays.

County Administrator Steve Nichols said that $6 is “right in the middle” of what surrounding counties are paying.

Animals at the SPCA will now be spayed, neutered and have microchip services unless dictated otherwise by a veterinarian.

“I thank the community, the county and the SPCA, all who were in favor of the spay and neuter and the microchipping, because that ensures…fewer numbers coming in. Our numbers are down,” said Suzy Morris on behalf of the SPCA. “Normally we look at 150 and 160 animals in the shelter or in foster homes. Right now our numbers are 62, and 23 of those are in foster care.” Of that number, she said, 10 are undergoing trial adoption.

“Over the past two years or so, things have really turned around,” Morris said. “We feel that we have so much to be pleased about.”

Pleasant Grove road paving

Supervisors previously allocated $98,000 toward the paving of the road that runs past the Pleasant Grove ballfields.

Wayne Stephens, director of public works, said the project may be eligible for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) recreational access program fund.

The county may be able to get $300,000 for the road, Stephens said. “We may not have to spend our own $98,000,” he said. Alternately, the county may be able to receive a match for its money, bringing the total potential funding to about $500,000.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected. A more in-depth story about missed calls will follow.