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Two vendors step up with new County 9-1-1 system

May 12, 2010 - Atlas Twp.-Two area ambulance providers are encouraged by the Genesee County 9-1-1 plan to streamline emergency medical services and enhance assessablity to the township.

Following Lloyd Fayling, 9-1-1 director for Genesee County, announcement that within a year a new mode of EMS dispatch could be in place that could speed service to the southeastern regions of the county, officials from Groveland Township EMS and Patriot Ambulance Service located in Burton, Davison and Marathon Township say they are willing to get on board with the program.

Under the new plan, each ambulance that wishes to participate will be required to have an 800 MHz radio along with an automatic vehicle locator (AVL) in each unit. Currently 13 ambulance companies with 36 units are active in Genesee County. Fayling said Genesee County has invested $13 million into the radio base that uses the AVL, similar to GPS, which can update central dispatch every quarter mile on the location of a unit. The immediate issue with 9-1-1 is that the EMS dispatcher uses standard phones to contact the ambulance service.

Groveland Township Fire Chief Steve McGee said they well get it in the loop when it starts.

"We'd keep the ambulances in Groveland Township and not base in Atlas Township," he added. "We'll protect our residents first, but we'd be happy to help if we are in the area. It takes a lot of emergency calls to make it profitable."

McGee estimates that the Atlas Township area would produce about 20 calls per month. He also said that 90 percent of the time, primary response to a call is 6 minutes with a secondary response time of 12 minutes.

"The AVL is a step in the right direction to keep that time down for Atlas Township," said McGee. Genesee County is looking at direct dispatch, it should have happened years ago."

Groveland Township responds to about 2,500 calls per year. Jim Grady, operations director for Patriot Ambulance Service said the Genesee County 9-1-1 AVL project could benefit Atlas Township.

"The AVL is a year to 18 months away," said Grady. "It's going to take some time, but there will be improvements to a lot of communities."

"Right now we have to have brick and mortar bases, we are responsible for the maintenance of a building that is very costly," said Grady.

"If 9-1-1 goes to a AVL system county-wide, there would be no reason to have a base for the ambulances—that's a big cost savings."

"There has been a lot of missconceptions of 9-1-1," he said. "The main need is that ambulance companies require call volume. The ambulance is sustained with volume—it's just like shopping malls or highways, for that matter. Just like with the public sector, you have to pay the bills."

"With the new 9-1-1 system I can't say an ambulance will be right in town but they will be closer. Atlas Township is a perfect example, they could contract with some company but there's a cost factor."

"Right now there are a lot of ambulance companies in Genesee County—there's a mix of profit and not-for-profit companies like municapalities—they all have to sustain a break-even point. For us that would mean four to five paying calls per day. The other issue is just how much the system is going to cost us. It has to be done right."

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