EFFINGHAM — Effingham County officials are discussing ways to handle situations when no ambulances are available at times they are needed because they are on other calls.
Such “status zero” calls were the topic of discussion among members of the 911 board this week.
Effingham County Sheriff David Mahon said that last month he attended an Emergency Service Agency Committee meeting to talk about status zero calls.
“We had a really good meeting. However, we didn’t come to any conclusions,” Mahon said.
Mahon said attending the meeting were representatives from the Fayette/Bond County Ambulance Service, Lakeside Ambulance Service Rural Med ambulance service and the company that serves Effingham County, Abbott EMS.
“Everyone expressed an interest in helping out,” Mahon said. “We left the meeting lining out some of the issues we had and plan to address it from there.”
Mahon said there was a meeting on Jan. 7 between the two 911 call centers, Effingham City Police Chief Jason McFarland, Mahon, Chief Deputy Paul Kuhns and representatives from Abbott EMS about how to solve the status zero call issue.
Mahon said he received notification recently from Abbott EMS stating it had established mutual aid agreements with Jasper County, Neoga, Toledo, Greenup and Rural Med EMS. He said Abbott EMS was working on an agreement with Rural Med, based in St. Elmo, to cover calls when Abbott EMS is at status zero.
“When we are down to status zero, Abbott is going to contact Rural Med who will stage up around Funkhouser,” Mahon said. “And if they don’t have anyone available, then they will contact Jasper County EMS.”
Mahon said their next meeting with Abbott would be Feb. 11 with the two 911 center supervisors and Abbott EMS.
“I really think we are headed in the right direction. I think we have a lot more options on the table now and I would like to see it in writing,” Mahon said. “We want to be open and transparent as to what we are going to do.”
Board member Larry Thies asked Abbott Ambulance Operations Supervisor Jeff Odenthal, who attended the meeting, if the mutual aid agreements were in effect now.
“All except for Rural Med have been in effect since July of 2017. Rural Med we got accomplished this month,” Odenthal said. “Our dispatch is responsible notifying Jasper and Rural Med in addition to finding additional mutual aid and advising PSAPs (911 call centers) when we do hit status zero.”
Effingham County Sheriff’s Office Telecommunicator Supervisor Tina Daniels said since Dec. 22 there was only one status zero call that could not be covered.
Odenthal explained to the board that when they are at status zero they do not have an ambulance available.
“It doesn’t mean we have lost a call. It just means at that timeframe we didn’t have a unit available,” Odenthal said.
“How many lost calls have you had?” Larry Thies asked Odenthal.
“Since we started in September of 2017, that number is nine,” Odenthal said.
Odenthal said the last time they had a lost call was in December when it snowed in Effingham County and there were multiple traffic accidents at the same time.
Mahon said Rural Med stationing in Funkhouser when Abbott EMS goes to status zero should address the issue of not having an ambulance available in Effingham. He said Jasper County could be dispatched to locations east of Effingham since they are closer to that area.
“Is there going to be an extra ALS (advanced life support) ambulance from Abbott available too?” Board member David Campell asked Odenthal.
“We are looking at adding additional resources on to help out with transfers so we can leave the ALS trucks available within the county,” Odenthal said.
In other matters, to keep all ambulances in communication with each other and the two 911 centers via two-way radio, the board pre-approved the cost of establishing a common mutual aid frequency. The radio frequency they plan to use was at one time the city-county emergency frequency.
Daniels said she estimates it will cost $1,860 to get everyone on the same frequency. However, there is a possibility of an additional cost if the high band radio is bad.
“When seconds matter, I think it is money well spent,” board member David Budde said.
The board preapproved $1,860 toward the mutual aid frequency and plan to review options if the high band radio is bad.
In financial discussions, Wayne Rubach reported the 911 board balance sheet ending Dec. 31, 2020, indicated an asset value of about $1.1 million up $212,240.80 from a 2019 asset balance of $933,647.91.