No support for 1st Responders at committee meeting

A proposal that Vandalia’s volunteer firemen become certified as First Responders has essentially been rejected.
Though there was no formal vote taken last Wednesday afternoon, no one attending a meeting of the city council’s public safety committee voiced support for that proposal.
It was a proposal suggested by Fayette County Coroner Bruce Bowen at Feb. 16 meeting of the city council.
Bowen asked the city to consider having its volunteer firemen become First Responders, certified to initially assess and offer minor medical assistance for accident victims and in other medical emergencies.
Bowen said there have been several instances where there were significant delays in getting an ambulance service to a medical emergency, and that he believes it would be beneficial to have the local firefighters provide needed assistance in such cases.
Bowen, who inadvertently was not invited to last week’s meeting, also noted that Vandalia’s fire department is the only area department that doesn’t have certified First Responders.
It didn’t take long at last week’s meeting for those attending to voice opposition to Bowen’s suggestion.
Keith Meadows, Vandalia Volunteer Fire Department chief, said the incidents that Bowen mentioned “sound more like there was some miscommunication than there was a problem” getting medical personnel to the scene.
And, Meadows said, “The reason that the Vandalia Fire Department has never taken part (in First Responder training) is because there is a hospital right here.”
He believes that the First Responder program is beneficial to other fire departments in the area because they have fewer calls each year, and that First Responder calls help keep members of those departments more active and hold them together as a group.
That’s not needed for the VVFD, he said, because the department meets once a week and holds regular training sessions.
Meadows said it’s a lot to ask of the VVFD members to take on the additional training, and that the cost of adding the service would be more than suggested by Bowen at the council meeting.
Meadows that there’s a potential for firefighters to be called out only a couple of times a year, and that when the training is not put to use often, there is a tendency to forget what’s been taught.
“Is all of the training and expense worth it?” Meadows said.
Alderman Mike Hobler said the proposal to add First Responder training is “kind of like the railroad crossing accident” in that there may be rare, isolated incidents where it would be beneficial.
But, Hobler said, “We have two (ambulance) services paid to do this.
“The theory is great, but I don’t think the necessity is there,” he said, adding that it’s beneficial to have First Responders in other area communities because of their distance from area hospitals.
“It would be fantastic if we would provide every service at maximum capacity. I think we do the best we can with the services we offer,” Hobler said.
Police Chief Jeff Ray said he believed that the city would have to “balance out the cost and the training” with the benefit.
“It goes back to them (firefighters) and what they want to do as a group,” Ray said. “Without oversight, it could be easily abused.”
Gottman said that Vandalia is fortunate to have two ambulance services available, especially when you consider that Effingham has only one.
“You can’t prepare for every incident,” Gottman said. “We have two qualified ambulance services providing 24-hour coverage.
“I don’t know what else we could do,” he said, adding that even if the city’s firefighters are certified as First Responders, there could be incidents in which they are unable to respond because they are out handling a fire or accident.
Alderman Russ Stunkel said he would “hate to see a knee-jerk reaction.
“It sounds like it’s too early to make any structure changes at this time.”

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