Groundbreaking Midlands Fire, EMS Partnership
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — A groundbreaking move by the City of Columbia and Richland County, when you call an ambulance, changes who shows up to your 9-1-1 call first and how fast they are allowed to provide care. Putting out fires of a different kind. That’s the new step being taken as officials form the Richland County Emergency Services City of Columbia Fire Collaboration. In short, it changes the way first responders–usually fire fighters– show up for your emergency. In the past, if two emergency medical technicians were treating a patient, another ambulance would have to arrive on scene for somebody to get the first EMS vehicle on the road. Not anymore. Nearly 200 firefighters may now drive an ambulance in an emergency. “Now when a fire engine is on the scene, someone from that unit is certified and qualified to get the ambulance and head to the hospital,” said Richland County councilman Jim Manning. In addition to the hundreds of Columbia Richland firefighters permitted to operate an ambulance, more than two dozen of them endured an eight month, eight hour a day training to become certified EMTs to treat and transport critical patients quicker. “At the first responder level, you do vital signs, a little comfort treatment. Now we’ve completed the EMT process for more advanced stuff,” said Kevin King, firefighter newly cross-trained to be a medic. The collaboration is part of ongoing efforts by the city and county agencies to join forces, they say, for more effective and efficient service to citizens. It’s a move they claim saves time and money. This new partnership is only the beginning. Officials say by the end of October, a total of 45 firefighters will have become trained EMTs. Being cross-trained is an option right now. But, long term, officials say it will become a requirement.