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October 20, 2013

Split coverage

Whatever the fate of South Lockport's EMS, the public will be covered, officials say

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — About 75 percent of the calls that South Lockport Volunteer Fire Co. receives concern medical emergencies, typically automobile accidents. That works out to a conservative average of about 825 EMS calls a year.

As South Lockport reviews its long-term plans for its emergency medical services, the fire company says Lockport town residents won’t be without EMS coverage. Declining enrollment of volunteer Emergency Medical Technicians with the company over the years has prompted an in-depth look at its ability to continue offering the service.

“The public should know that providing quality emergency service is the highest priority for South Lockport and we will continue to adhere to the quality and standards you have always expected and received,” South Lockport President Peter Smith said in a statement last week. “(The review) does not mean the South Lockport Fire Co. is not going to respond to the community’s calls. We will continue to respond to all emergency calls within our response area in the Town of Lockport,” with help from other fire companies as needed.

Running an emergency medical service is a time-intensive and expensive endeavor for a fire company. So a shortage of emergency medical technicians, as well as increased regulatory and training requirements for volunteers, make maintaining an EMS more challenging.

The amount of training required to become a EMT and retain that certification is intense, said Benjamin J. Ripson, South Lockport’s third assistant fire chief and chairman of the EMS committee.

EMT regulations, set by the New York State Department of Health, must be followed by all EMS agencies regardless whether they are career (paid professionals) or volunteer.

The South Lockport membership would have the final say on any change to the fire company’s EMS, Ripson said. If a worst case scenario occurred and South Lockport cut emergency medical service altogether, there are other agencies in the area that could step up to the plate to provide the service.

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