Summit County EMS team up to respond to medical calls for holidays | SummitDaily.com

Summit County EMS team up to respond to medical calls for holidays

Elise Reuter
ereuter@summitdaily.com

Unlike the other two fire districts in Summit County, Red, White and Blue Fire Rescue in Breckenridge has its own 24-7-365 ambulance staffed by employees who aren't yet trained for out-of-county transports. A second ambulance is available to be staffed during surges in medical emergencies.

Holiday visitors kept the Summit County Ambulance staff on its toes last month, with peak levels of calls continuing throughout the new year. However, between the joined forces of the ambulance service and local fire departments, the agencies were able to respond to the emergencies without calling for additional assistance.

"It's certainly one of the busiest times of the year for the county in general as well as for our emergency service," assistant county manager Scott Vargo said.

Throughout the year, call volumes were up 10 percent compared to 2014, Lake Dillon fire chief Jeff Berino said. The increases have primarily been for medical calls and calls related to Interstate 70 incidents.

"It's extremely busy," he said, noting the department saw a total of four to five calls per day in the month of December.

Red, White & Blue Chief Jim Keating noted a similar trend.

"It was not unusual that, in a 24-hour day, our crews would respond to 15 medical calls for service, resulting in 8 to 10 ambulance transports to the next higher level of care especially the day before, the holiday and the day after for both Christmas and New Year's," he wrote.

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Despite the increased call volume, this season brought good news, as a new intergovernmental agreement between the Summit County Ambulance Service and local fire departments provided more on-call staff. The agreement cross-trains EMT-certified Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue, Copper Mountain Fire and Red, White & Blue Fire staff to use ambulance equipment and documentation.

As part of the agreement, Lake Dillon Fire and Copper provide on-call EMS to co-staff an ambulance, especially helpful for medical transports out of the county. When other ambulances are in the process of a transport, Berino said the remaining ambulances are strategically placed to ensure quick responses from Breckenridge and Dillon — two of the busiest stations for medical and highway calls.

"We move them around like chess pieces to where there would be a higher percentage chance of a call," he said.

According to a separate, pre-existing agreement, Red, White & Blue Fire provides a 24-hour, yearlong staffed ambulance to respond to medical calls in the district that can also respond across the county. A second Red, White & Blue ambulance can respond to medical emergencies by diverting staff from a fire engine.

"Having it there is incredibly helpful for surge issues," Vargo said. "It's been very good to work with everybody and get ourselves started on this path."

Unlike previous years, he added, the ambulance staff did not need to page other counties for additional assistance during these surges of activity.

While this new system is unique to Summit County, he said they may look at its effectiveness and possibly expand on it in the future, by cross-training ambulance staff to assist the fire departments with fire or hazmat events.

"Right now, this system is working. We want to certainly evaluate it in April or May when it's mud season, and everything slows down," Berino said. "It's been great to see the agencies cooperating with each other, and I'm excited to see where it goes."