Volunteer fire companies and ambulance services face major manpower shortages and challenges these days. In a bid to adequately deal with this, three volunteer fire companies in northcentral Lycoming County — Hepburn Township, Trout Run, and Ralston — have embarked on an ambulance alliance that is hoped will deal with this problem. These companies cover Hepburn, Lycoming, Lewis, and McIntyre townships. An agreement to this was inked at a meeting on February 15.
Ten members of the newly formed Steering Committee have developed into a Board of Directors (BOD), which consists of one township supervisor from each participating township and two members from each participating fire company, to provide emergency medical services in the northcentral sector of Lycoming County. The BOD is very active and is moving forward in a fast manner. The goal of this board, the township, and the fire departments involved is to provide timely and professional care to the residents residing in the townships involved. This care is also extended to passers-by that may be involved in a medical or fire department-related incident while traveling through the area.
The BOD is made up of one Township Supervisor from each of the four townships involved. There is also a member from each of the three fire departments and an alternate, which would be six fire department members.
During the initial Steering Committee meeting, multiple questions were asked by supervisors as they are aware that this would be a fire department daily operational situation.
Questions were answered immediately and to the level that fulfilled the needs of the Supervisors.
At this point, the BOD was determined and placed into action. Discussions including hiring, skills testing, hours, and days of operation were covered in great depth. During the final conversation of the initial meeting, it was determined that the BOD will meet bi-weekly through the end of the process of getting the EMS Service off the ground.
The BOD is already looking toward 24 hour, seven days a week service. Currently, the service base cost for 12 hour/7 days a week will have a base cost of $190,528.00 per year. The money to operate the alliance will come from $30,000 per year from each participating township, $40,000 from EQT, and $100,000 from the Lycoming County Commissioners.
The two-person fire/EMT crew will cover emergencies in Hepburn, Lycoming, Lewis, and McIntyre Townships. This decision was made because of the lack of volunteers. Having a dedicated crew in all four townships will allow quicker response times during emergencies.
This is the first collaboration of this kind in northcentral Lycoming County. The northcentral Lycoming EMS Program has been in the works for years, but now it’s a reality. Four municipalities have joined forces to extend emergency care in the county.
Officials of the alliance will use the money used and developed to operate the alliance for new staff, with the hopes of bringing in more firefighters.
Officials, businesses, and organizations in the areas covered by the new alliance are excited about the advent of the alliance.
Chuck O’Brien, a Fire Captain at the Hepburn Township Volunteer Fire Company, stated, “I truly mean it when I say that we are truly humbled by the support given [in the forming of the alliance]. Many volunteer organizations have suffered for more than a decade without relief. Society has changed to an ‘all about oneself’ concept in the last ten years or so. Hopefully, this concept will help other departments that are hurting for volunteers.”
Officials from Camp Susque, which is in Lewis Township, stated, “Tonight our local fire company, Trout Run Volunteer Fire Company, signed an agreement along with Hepburn Volunteer Fire Company and Ralston Volunteer Fire Company and our local supervisors to form a paid emergency medical services alliance. Thanks to the work put in by countless volunteers; our valley will have a dedicated, professionally-staffed ambulance on call for all fire and medical emergencies. We are grateful for the enhancement that will come from this.”
Fire and ambulance alliances seem to be the wave of the future because of chronic manpower shortages. Other areas of Lycoming County have been or are in the process of forming fire and ambulance alliances.
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