Winter Warriors

Published 11:32 pm Wednesday, February 19, 2014

WINDSOR – “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail” is usually the Postal Service’s motto; but they should feel mighty proud if Bertie County Emergency Services ‘borrowed’ it.

That’s because despite the inclement weather experienced at the end of January, the county’s emergency responders showed they know how to conquer the elements as well.

At Monday’s meeting of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners, Emergency Services Director Mitch Cooper yielded the floor to Emergency Medical Services Division Chief Matt Leicester for the monthly update. Leicester once again had good news to report to the Commissioners on emergency service responses for the first month of the new year.

So much so, that this was Leicester’s shortest presentation before the board in the three months since the county took over its own EMS services from the now-bankrupt First Med.

“We’re settling in,” Leicester began. “Now things are settling down and getting a little more normal for us to this point.”

As has been the case since the December take-over, the chute times and response times continue to improve according to the graphs and charts Leicester made during his presentation.

“Last month was our busiest month,” he continued. “We had 282 total responses on the EMS side and our average chute time which is from pager to en-route was 79.29 seconds which beats our previous time by almost a full half-second.”

Leicester said the crews’ average response time was up from their previous-best of 10.08 minutes in the month of December to 10.9 minutes in January.  Also “taking a hit” were the percentage of responses under 20 minutes: from a to-date best of 95 percent for all calls and 96 percent on primary calls down to 91 percent all, and 93 percent primary.

“What you’re going to see on your chart is the S-A part, or “snow-adjusted number,” Leicester explained. “Because of the unusual weather we had for a good portion of January we had a number of responses that due to road conditions and weather conditions made it hazardous for us to proceed in such a manner to get to some of these calls in under 40 minutes.”

Leicester admitted that given the circumstances, this is one of the times when something like that is out of an emergency med-tech’s control.

“So if you remove those numbers, because they make those numbers look much more inflated on a negative side,” he said. “If you take out those responses, then our chute times are at 79.29 because the snow doesn’t affect any of that at all.”

Leicester said if snow-adjusted numbers are subtracted then the average response time drops to just under ten minutes (10.9).

“So we were just under ten minutes getting to all of our calls and our percentage of response time under 20 minutes was actually 96 percent to all responses and 97 percent to primary,” he reiterated. “So just that handful of calls we ran during the snow where conditions were such that we could not get there in that 20 minute window, it actually puts our numbers a little bit back to where we expected them to be.”

Leicester said leaving in those call numbers still produced the second-best month for overall response time, and best for chute time, and still made 91 percent of all calls in less than 10 minutes.

“Obviously,” he cautioned, “we don’t expect that to continue. That’s an unusual month given the ice and the snow we had for a good portion of that.”

Chairman J. Wallace Perry asked his fellow Commissioners it they had heard any complaints about the EMS service.

“Just the reverse,” chimed up Commissioner Ronald “Ron” Wesson. “I’ve heard very positive responses from the hospital and the citizens.  The doctors at the Emergency Room (at Vidant Bertie) are loving what you guys are doing.”

Leicester added one final positive note that in the last week his crews had responded to two ROSC’s, or ‘return of spontaneous circulation’.

“That is when somebody’s heart stops, and we come in and do CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation), we’ve had two people that we’ve brought into the Emergency Room, that we’ve brought them back,” Leicester said. “They have not left the hospital but the first step is getting them to the hospital so they can they get to that next step. We’re seeing that transition.

“We’re starting to see that happen more for us because that’s a very positive for us as well,” he added.

Wesson inquired what the Emergency Medical team had learned from all the bad weather the region has been experiencing this winter.

“We’ve got the trucks and the people,” Leicester responded. “If we know for sure we could put a few more resources on.”

Leicester said that he stayed at the Windsor facility overnight during the two most recent storms with EMS Director Cooper on-call at his residence and other personnel staying on alert with family around the county.

“That gave us an additional resource in each one of those areas who could go out and provide help to those crews,” Leicester noted. “Because one of the things we didn’t want to see was putting people out in the middle of a snowstorm in the middle of the night, especially on some of the back roads, when they can’t see, because if we don’t have to put a truck on the road driving in bad conditions from a safety and liability standpoint for personnel we try to do that.”

Leicester said there are some areas that are a 20-minute response time even in ideal conditions, when it’s snow and ice, it makes those conditions a lot worse in getting there.

Commissioner Charles Smith asked if there’d been any feedback where someone had actually suffered because of response time during the inclement weather and Leicester replied not that he had heard.

“Being here I got to hear most of them (crews) go out,” he answered. “And I don’t think there was anything that I recall of a critical nature. One of the things we can look at with the Communications Center are the (steps) that we can take during bad weather, (such as) some more in-detail dispatching so that we can decide whether to send a truck right away or perhaps waiting until conditions improve; but that’s a long-term project way, way down the road.”

The Commissioners thanked Cooper and Leicester for their monthly report.