By a 4-2 vote, the Statesville City Council authorized the city’s paid fire department to respond to all emergency medical calls within the city.
The recommendation to implement such a response came at the council’s Oct. 20 meeting, and was accompanied by a detailed analysis in support of the change from Fire Chief Dennis Hutchens.
“This request is a result of recommendations made by the Center for Public Safety as part of our accreditation process,” Hutchens told the council members. “We view this as an opportunity to improve emergency services in Statesville.”
Prior to the change, most medical calls in the city were handled by the Iredell County Emergency Medical Services, though the fire department was sometimes called in to assist. The city fire department had responded to medical calls from May through August, in order to weigh the impact of a full-time medical response. The data showed that simultaneous calls were minimal, and that Statesville fire units arrived at the scene first 73 percent of the time.
“This is by far the most staggering statistic to come out of this analysis,” said Mayor Costi Kutteh, as he reviewed the fire department report with the councilmen.
The new policy means city residents will see fire engines responding to medical calls, which has become a common practice in many areas of the state. “Cornelius, Concord, Gastonia, Mooresville and Charlotte are among fire departments that use fire apparatus on medical calls,” Hutchens noted.
He said that rolling the fire trucks keeps companies together for additional calls and provides manpower on the scene immediately. Moreover, all fire department personnel are trained in Basic Emergency Medical Technician Level.
The measure was opposed by councilmen Michael Johnson and Jap Johnson; both objected to the concept of the city rolling fire engines to all emergency medical calls. “If the department wants to roll on all medical calls, then I would suggest they use smaller vehicles, not a 40,000-pound fire truck,” Jap Johnson said. “Mike and I both feel this is a matter of safety; that’s why we voted no.”
Councilman Jarrod Phifer was absent from the meeting, and the Ward 6 seat is vacant following Councilman Flake Huggin’s resignation.
Also at the Oct. 20 meeting, the council approved a $95,563 expenditure to purchase and install way-finding signs that will be designed to attract motorists into the city’s downtown area and direct them to major venues.
The council insisted that a special committee be formed to help determine the best wording and destinations for each sign.