EMS Director Hollie Osbourn, EMR Kenneth Thrash and paramedic Joel Garrett stand next to the Coosa County Ambulance, with the truck called Rescue 22, which went into service July 8 and has responded to more than 60 calls so far. Photo by Christa Jennings
In addition to other supplies, the Coosa County Ambulance has a LifePak 15 defibrilator with Bluetooth capabilities to send results directly to a hospital, as well as a Stryker Power-Pro powered ambulance cot, or stretcher, with a hydraulic system that raises and lowers the cot at the touch of a button. Photos by Christa Jennings
By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
The Coosa County Ambulance is now in service and has been busily responding to calls throughout Coosa County since it officially went into service July 8.
EMS Director Hollie Osbourn reported that for the month of July, from July 8-31, they were dispatched to and responded to 48 calls. As of Tuesday morning, for the month of August the ambulance had responded to 15 calls so far.
Coosa County Ambulance is the official name of the county’s new ambulance service, and the name of the ambulance is Rescue 22.
Osbourn, who is also a paramedic and sometimes helps run calls for the service, has a history of volunteerism, starting with when she got into helping a volunteer fire department in 1999. She said she and her husband, Andy Osbourn, have done it ever since, with Hollie eventually going to EMT school and taking a full-time job with Sylacauga Ambulance.
However, she recognizes that it all started with the volunteer fire department. As such, she mentioned how much the volunteers mean to her and how much she enjoys having them on scenes when the ambulance responds to calls.
Osbourn mentioned that they have run calls in Equality and said that Fire Chief Wade Turner and his crew “are incredible.” She recognized other volunteer departments, as well, and the impact and vast amount of help they offer their communities through their volunteer service.
“I know we’re going to have help when we go,” Osbourn said. “The volunteers are a big help.”
She said the biggest challenge in these early days of the ambulance operating has been locations in the county’s rural areas and finding exact locations for some addresses. However, she said they use the county map book to help in those instances.
The Coosa County Ambulance responds anywhere within the county, with Osbourn saying that they do not have boundary lines. She added that the countywide ambulance is not here to take away from anything, but rather to add to existing services.
Osbourn said that the ambulance’s primary area is Rockford, where the ambulance is stationed, and the western and southern ends of the county. However, she said they are not confined to just that area and that they have answered calls all over the county.
“We have an advantage being a 24/7/365 full-time service,” she said. “We do not take holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas – we’re here. The station is always manned. We have an advantage being here 24/7.”
She said that operating the ambulance on a full-time basis allows them to have faster response times since they are always at the station. She added that their standard is 3 minutes from the time a call comes in until they are rolling out.
Osbourn explained that there might be a delay if they are on another call, but she said the standard with the state is also three minutes from being dispatched until rolling out.
Regarding the ambulance staff, Osbourn said that she feels like she has the best group of people working the ambulance and that they mesh and work well together, adding that trust is a key component.
“We’re a team,” Osbourn said. “We work different shifts, but we all have the same goal.”
The ambulance is staffed in shifts with seven full-time employees, and Osbourn also currently has 10 part-time or fill-in employees to help as needed.
The full-time roster consists of paramedics Christina Garrett, Jeffery Painter and Joel Garrett; advanced EMTs Misty Lewis and Yancey Brown; EMT Brandon Jackson; and EMR Derrick Thompson.
In addition to Osbourn assisting as a fill-in paramedic when needed, her husband, Andy, also assists as a part-time or fill-in medic as needed. He is also the operations manager for Lifeguard Ambulance Service’s Birmingham operation, which is a division of Global Medical Response.
Others who help as part-time employees to fill in as needed include paramedics Corey Ralyea and Jody McMichen; advanced EMT Caleb Perkins; EMTs Jonathan McRaney, Charlie O’Barr and Billy Cooper; EMRs Kenneth Thrash and Wade Turner; and ECP Sheldon Hutcherson.
Osbourn said that she has every confidence that the staff can handle everything. She also gave credit to dispatch, noting that they have “been amazing” and that she has been impressed with them.
While all of the ambulance’s full-time slots are now full, she said they are still hiring part-time workers and that they can always use part-time help, adding that they are just as important.
The full-time crews are 24 hours on and 72 hours off. Crews work 24-hour shifts from 9 a.m. one day until 9 a.m. the following day, rotating out with four shifts.
Osbourn mentioned that when planning out everything she thought of things she would have liked as a medic and tried to incorporate those things as much as possible. Having the shifts set up as they are allows them to have more family time, as well as working side jobs and doing other things, she said.
The staff quarters are also situated to allow crew members to relax and have some down time between calls, with comfortable seating and a television.
An old classroom in the E-911 Center that was used as a file room for the Board of Education has been transformed into the quarters for the crews. Numerous individuals came together to help renovate and transition the room into the space for the ambulance crews to utilize.
The renovated space includes a shower, beds for sleeping quarters, a day room, office space, and a room for supplies.
“It was a true joint effort,” Osbourn said. “A lot of folks had a lot of hands in it. I’m glad we had help to get it done. It’s been a journey, but I’m glad to have it up and going.”
She added that they are very family oriented and that she wants people to feel welcome and comfortable there. She mentioned that so much of their lives are spent at the stations, so she wanted the Coosa County station to be a comfortable space for crew members and a place where they feel at home.
Regarding calls they have been dispatched to, Osbourn said that they have received positive feedback and compliments about being professional and that people are glad they’re here. She added that they are glad to help and be there.
In responding to calls, she recognized the urgency that can often go hand-in-hand with those calls, saying that minutes and even seconds sometimes can make all the difference.
In addition to operating the countywide ambulance for any ambulance calls as needed, she said they also do standbys for volunteer fire departments in case their services are needed during fire calls.
The Coosa County Ambulance is currently being operated utilizing American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funds. However, those funds will run out as they go toward salaries, fuel, supplies, and more.
Osbourn said the $15 tag fee will be on the ballot in March for Coosa County citizens to vote on whether to institute that fee or not, with that money being earmarked to go toward the countywide ambulance service.
“It’s a $15 fee paid once a year,” she said. “Even if you buy 10 tags, divided by a year, it’s just cents a day. You pay that once for the year, and you get a 24/7/365 ambulance service in return, staffed with paramedics.”
She added that is the current plan and that at this point in time that us the only way to keep the ambulance service going.
“I do stress that when you go to vote on the tag fee, vote yes,” Osbourn said. “If you vote no, this ambulance service may no longer exist. If the people don’t vote, we won’t be here.”
She asked those who live in areas with ambulance service to also think about other areas and to give serious consideration to the tag fee, especially since the ambulance responds all over the county.
“So many calls in this area are going unanswered,” she said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Photos by Christa Jennings