New EMS crews will be added this year in northern and southern Beaufort County, part of an effort to address recommendations from a 2010 report to improve emergency response.
Two ambulance crews are being formed to run 24 hours, seven days a week in both parts of the county, according to Phil Foot, county director of public safety. About $350,000 was approved for the new crews in the 2013-14 county budget that took effect Monday.
Foot said 12 new paramedics will be hired to staff the new units. The crews also will require two new ambulances. Foot said the timeline for hiring those crews and ordering the new ambulances is still being worked out.
"This is part of that process, and we are moving forward on it," he said.
The new ambulance crews were suggested in a 2010 review of the county's ambulance service. Although consultants found that the county provided "a sound level of service," it suggested several changes and procedures.
Decisions on exactly where the crews would be placed have not been made. "We've got to remember that the figures they used are a few years old," Foot said of the report. "Shifts in population might dictate something different than what they had."
Beaufort County EMS also has added three new ambulances to its 16-vehicle fleet, replacing models that are between six and eight years old. These ambulances are in addition to the ones the county will buy for the two new crews, Foot said.
The recently purchased ambulances will be placed in Bluffton, Lobeco and on St. Helena Island, according to Howell Youmans, EMS deputy director.
They replace ones that have racked up many road miles and hours of running time, he said.
"It's not only just the mileage running up and down the road," Youmans said of the ambulances being replaced. They also have to continue running during and between calls to keep the lights and electrical medical equipment operating, he said. "They have a lot of hours on them in addition to the mileage."
Two of the ambulances are already in service and a third underwent an inspection Wednesday by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and was expected to be running later that day, Youmans said.
Beaufort County EMS operates from nine stations across the county, Youmans said, and its crews handle, on average, more than 1,000 calls a month.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/IPBG_Casey.