County officials have offered the Koontz Lake Volunteer Fire Department what they hope is a workable option to make sure they are able to respond in tandem with Starke County EMS to all medical calls. Members of the fire department took exception with the county’s policy to let Grovertown-based Medic 5 decide whether they need their assistance, saying the department has provided medical services to year-round and seasonal residents since its establishment in the early 1940s. Starke County Council President Dave Pearman, who is also a volunteer firefighter, says public safety is the county’s number one concern. He says the Koontz Lake Fire Department’s pagers can be programmed to get the EMS calls automatically. He says it will cost the township about $30 per pager.
Township Trustee Mark Allen called a meeting of fire department, EMS, dispatch, sheriff’s office, emergency management and county government representatives. “The whole purpose of this meeting wasn’t trying to point fingers at anybody. I think some people might have thought about that in the meeting, but it’s not the case. This was just a matter of everybody getting on the same page and working for what’s best for the township. At least now we have an option. Actually Dave had a good suggestion. That was never suggested before. That would have been great to know that,” Allen told WKVI news after the meeting.
Issues were raised earlier this year after the county made a blanket policy decision to let EMS decide whether first responders are needed instead of automatically sending them on medical calls. Sheriff Oscar Cowen that was prompted by the Knox and Hamlet Fire Departments not wanting to be toned to every medical call – Knox due to call volume and Hamlet because of a lack of personnel–and is not a reflection on any of the departments.Other departments only wanted to be toned for certain calls. Cowen
“In dispatch, most all of you, if not all of you, have not been a dispatcher, and you don’t know how hectic it gets in there when an emergency comes up. So to try to determine who we’re going to send where is too much for them. So it’s easier for them to just Medic 5 get a call, they say ‘send Koontz Lake’ and we do,” Cowen said.
Koontz Lake Fire Chief Andy Lawrence said after the meeting he’s glad the issues have been outlined. “You try to make everything better as you go along, and it seems like we’ve taken a giant step back. I have no beef with any dispatcher, I have no beef with EMS. I work with EMS and I work with the dispatchers. It was just a way that all the taxpayers up here could ask their questions and get answers they needed.” Lawrence adds that any decision about spending money to program the fire department’s pagers to receive Medic 5 EMS calls is up to the township trustee.