Beaufort News

A closer look at Beaufort County EMS improvements

The Beaufort County EMS Station 5 ambulance sits parked outside of the home being rented as the temporary Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District Station 22 on Oct. 30, 2015, on St. Helena Island off of Sea Island Parkway.  Station 22's renovations were scheduled for completion Dec. 1.
The Beaufort County EMS Station 5 ambulance sits parked outside of the home being rented as the temporary Lady's Island-St. Helena Fire District Station 22 on Oct. 30, 2015, on St. Helena Island off of Sea Island Parkway. Station 22's renovations were scheduled for completion Dec. 1. dearley@islandpacket.com

A 2011 review of Beaufort County EMS included 42 findings and recommendations. To date, the following has been done by Beaufort County.

Dispatch Upgrades

The county entered a $2.5 million contract to replace its 20-year-old computer system used by its 911 dispatchers, the county jail, fire and rescue, EMS and the sheriff's office. The new system has allowed EMS to improve its reporting and better track patient care, use of supplies and trends in care. Additionally, 911 dispatchers now send first-responders to emergency scenes as soon as callers provide essential information instead of waiting for details about the emergency.

Improved EMS times

The 2011 report identified the turnout time -- the time it takes for EMTs to get on the road to a call from the time they receive it -- as an area where the county could make big improvements. In the years since, county EMS has decreased its turnout time from 2 minutes and 54 seconds in 2009 to 49 seconds last year. The times were improved by creating more regimented processes for leaving the station, according to EMS leaders.

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Overall, the county has decreased the total time between a call and the time crews arrive by 4 minutes and 16 seconds. It now takes, on average, 8 minutes and 34 seconds compared to 12 minutes and 50 seconds in 2009.

Additionally, under an old policy, when an ambulance was dispatched, others moved to cover its territory. But that movement has been mostly eliminated after the review found that moving ambulances would often send the units farther away from their next call for service.

More staff, ambulances

EMS has increased its part-time staff by 20 EMTs and paramedics to bolster its service. The county also went from 9 to 11 front-line ambulances and added 12 full-time first responders to staff them. The ambulances cost around $150,000 each and are intended for new stations in Bluffton and Burton, but for now one is stationed in Sun City Hilton Head and the other in Beaufort.

New technology

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Each ambulance also is now equipped with LUCAS 2 chest-compression devices, which can perform automated CPR on a patient without interruption and more consistently than a paramedic can. The machines allow CPR to continue while first responders are transporting patients. The county has also added equipment to help transfer bariatric patients to the ambulance. And all new gated communities in the county must now have codeless and keyless systems so ambulances can easily gain entry. Existing communities were required to retrofit their systems with radio-controlled gate openers that allow first responders to control gates.

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